Sam Weinberg, ‘19 MD, PhD, has won the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists, a prestigious award given to early-career physician-scientists.
Founded by two pharmaceutical businessmen, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund aims to nurture a diverse group of leaders in biomedical sciences to improve human health through education and powering scientific discovery.
The award provides $700,000 over five years to bridge advanced postdoctoral and fellowship training and the early years of faculty service. The funds will allow Weinberg to establish his own laboratory at Feinberg.
Weinberg’s research centers on how changes in the metabolic environment can influence immunity. In the lab, he has examined regulatory T-cells, which suppress the immune system and can cause autoimmunity if their numbers are too low. His work on suppressing mitochondrial function in these cells landed him a first-author publication in Nature.
“I’m really interested in understanding how metabolism — things like diet, obesity or changes in the cellular microenvironment — change the way that immune cells work,” Weinberg said. “By understanding how that happens, we can potentially develop new therapies or vaccine approaches that let us choose the immune response that we want by changing the intrinsic metabolism of immune cells.”
After finishing his residency program in clinical pathology at McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University, Weinberg will join the Feinberg faculty in the fall as assistant professor of Pathology in addition to his clinical service in clinical immunology.
“Sam has deep expertise in immunology at the most basic level and combines that with lots of experience in experimental approaches to study the influence of mitochondrial metabolism on immune cell function,” said Daniel Brat, MD, PhD, the chair and Magerstadt Professor of Pathology. “With his technical sophistication in mass spectroscopy and flow cytometry, together with a future that will include artificial intelligence applications, I think we can look forward to some major advances in the ways that the clinical immunology lab provides clinically relevant testing to guide patient care.”
Weinberg said the award is a testament to the support he’s received from both Feinberg and Northwestern Medicine hospitals throughout his medical school and training experience.
“As an MD/PhD, you work a really long time and it can feel like a long process that you’re not always rewarded for. It’s really gratifying to receive this recognition that the work that I’ve done to this point has been beneficial and people see the value in it,” Weinberg said. “When you train here, I think you get to see that it’s in the bones of the place to support physician-scientists. After building all these collaborations and seeing all the resources the institution offers to make us successful, it just made sense to start my career here and keep benefitting from the support I’ve been receiving.”