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Sisley Jérôme Lejeune 2014 price : 3 questions to Randi Hagerman and Yann Hérault

Published on 03/12/2015 in Scientific research


Created as a reward for the work accomplished on Down Syndrome or other genetic intelligence diseases in a therapeutic perspective, the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Award is a way of appreciating the work of some of the greatest world researchers who enabled research for treatments to be developed and to progress. 

This Award shows a will of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation and of the Sisley Foundation to strengthen and encourage therapeutic research by rewarding some of the ambitious work carried out in the field of genetic intelligence diseases.

Handed out this year on March 10th inside the European Parliament, the Sisley Award was attributed to Randi Hagerman, director of the MIND INSTITUE in California. Yann Hérault, laureate of the same award in 2013, chaired the scientific jury.

Going over Yann Hérault’s and Randi Hagerman’s impressions.

randi sisley

Randi Hagerman

1) As laureate of the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Award, how do you feel about receiving this price ?

Receiving the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Award means a lot to me. It is the acknowledgement of the work I have achieved in several fields. This includes the work I carried out on Fragile X but also my work concerning various studies, for which I worked day in day out looking for a treatment for Fragile X. On a financial level, this award comes as a considerable help to my studies. We are going through difficult times and the American federal agencies have cut down on a lot of the funding, so this Award will be a good help to research and will enable me to extend the field of my studies.

Personally the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Award is very important because I am always under the impression that no one reads my research. This acknowledgement by the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation is therefore very comforting. It also comes as a significant financial help in these times of great need.

2) Does it mean anything to you that the Award ceremony is being held inside the European Parliament?

On an architectural level, the European Parliament is outstanding. It represents the world working together, or at least Europe working together, to improve the life of European people. To me, it represents team work, and I believe that to find a treatment for genetic intelligence diseases, in particular Down Syndrome and Fragile X, we need to work together as a team. People from every country, from every field, working together and helping each other to find the answer.  It is therefore very symbolic that I should be given the Award in the European Parliament as an encouragement for young researchers and older ones like me to work together. We need to encourage young researchers to direct their careers towards research on genetic intelligence diseases. 

3) How can research on genetic intelligence diseases be encouraged?

I would say to young researchers that it is essential they do not give up even though it is currently very difficult to find funds. Don’t give up, look for new resources besides the subsidies given by the government: donations, benefactors, or foundations such as the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation to which you can ask for funds. I think that the main issue young researchers face is the lack of means because, without the necessary funding, they can’t go on with their research. The more funding there is to support research on genetic intelligence diseases, the easier it will be to encourage younger researchers to work in this field. Speaking of funds, I think the role played by the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation is essential.

Dr. Yann Hérault, president of the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune jury and president of the Scientific Council of the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation

1) As one of the former laureates of the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Award, how do you feel about being the person handing it out this year?

I am greatly honoured of handing out the award this year to my colleague Randi Hagerman for the excellence of the pioneer work she has achieved in the field of Fragile X Syndrome, Fmr1 permutations responsible for premature ovarian failure (POF) in women, and Fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS). She has an exemplary career, which brings together very fundamental approaches, clinical approaches, and therapeutic trials with patients. For me, it is also a way to pass the torch and put Randi Hagerman’s exceptional work on Fragile X Syndrome in full light

2) Does it mean anything to you that the Award ceremony is being held inside the European Parliament?

Every year, the Sisley-Jérôme Lejeune Award rewards eminent researchers who stand out thanks to the quality of their work in the field of genetics and, more precisely, in genetic intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome. Giving out this award inside the European Parliament puts even more emphasis on research on genetic intellectual disabilities and on the scientific advances which include a therapeutic perspective. As researchers we are not used to these kinds of demonstrations, but being given such a reward is always a unique moment that enables us to better understand the scope of our work for our patients and the whole society. This attribution inside the European Parliament carries the message according to which it is now feasible to improve the life conditions of patients affected with genetic intellectual disabilities. It is a glimpse of hope even though there is still a long way to go to achieve our mission.

3) How can research on genetic intelligence diseases be encouraged?

Many years ago, it could seem no use to take up the challenge of trying to understand genetic intelligence diseases. But we now know that we have the means to answer this multiple scientific question. The knowledge we acquire every day concerning these sometimes very rare diseases which cause intellectual disabilities are as many elements to understanding the normal functioning of our brain and getting a glimpse of the possible therapeutic modes of action. It is however clear that acquiring this new knowledge requires means, financial resources and the commitment of men and women in the sectors of research, in order to go beyond the boundaries of what we know and improve our community life.


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