The Jacob’s Ladder Norman Saunders International Research Prize: J. Paul Taylor, MD, PhD

Jacob’s Ladder is pleased to announce that Dr. J. Paul Taylor is the winner of the 2020/2021 Jacob’s Ladder Norman Saunders Research Prize. Dr. Taylor is the Edward F. Barry Endowed Chair of Cell and Molecular Biology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. He trained as a clinical neurologist and now spends his days in a research lab investigating how the nervous system develops and functions, but his studies always begin with what he learns from patients.

Beginning with genes that are disrupted in patients with neurodegenerative disease, Dr. Taylor’s lab team first determines the normal function of those genes and then looks at how their mutation causes disease, taking advantage of any model or experimental system that gets the researcher closer to an answer.

This strategy has led Dr. Taylor to discover that some neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia, are caused by defects in the assembly, disassembly or clearance of cellular packages of RNA and protein known as RNA granules. He has shown that these types of defects in RNA metabolism can also cause degenerative muscle diseases.

Dr. Taylor’s team is now investigating the role of RNA granules in regulating gene activity and exploring how the granules are assembled.

We look forward to welcoming Dr. Taylor, the 17th winner of the Jacob’s Ladder Norman Saunders Award, to Toronto and to the Hospital for Sick Children’s Grand Rounds in the spring of 2020.