2015 Frederick W.L. Kerr Basic Science Research Award
Clifford J. Woolf, MD PhD
Clifford J. Woolf, MD PhD, is an internationally recognized expert in pain and regeneration of the nervous system. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees. He moved to London in 1979 and became professor of Neurobiology in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at University College London. In 1997 he was recruited by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) to join the faculty of the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Management at MGH and serve as the first Richard J. Kitz Professor of Anesthesiology Research at HMS. During this period he established and directed the Neural Plasticity Research Group at MGH.
In 2007 he was appointed principal faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and in 2010 was named director of the F. M. Kirby Neurobiology Center and of the Program in Neurobiology at Children’s Hospital Boston, and became Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology at HMS, as well as co-director of neuroimmunology for the Program in Immunology. Dr Woolf is deputy director of the Intellectual Developmental Disability Disorders Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and co-director of the neuroscience program of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
Dr. Woolf’s research focuses on understanding the mechanism of pain and in promoting the regeneration of the nervous system and in translating these basic science results into new therapeutics and diagnostics. He discovered central sensitization and was the first to show the role of NGF in inflammatory pain. His current work includes human, mouse and Drosophila genetics, stem cell biology, and exploiting a novel strategy for silencing pain fibers. The author of more than 300 original articles, reviews, and editorials, Dr. Woolf is also a serial innovator, holding multiple patents and licenses for technological innovation and has served as a consultant and scientific advisory board member for biotechnology firms and drug companies.
Over his career Dr. Woolf has received nearly two dozen honors and prizes. Most recently he was awarded the Magnes medal in Israel (2013) and was selected to deliver the FE Bennett Memorial Lecture by the American Neurological Association (2012). He was awarded a Javits Award from the NINDS at the NIH (2011), delivered the Schmidt lecture at MIT (2011) and the Bonica Lecture for the International Society of the Study of Pain (2010), was the first recipient of the Distinguished Young Investigator Award of that society in 1987, was Visiting Professor at Columbia University (2009), and received the Wall Medal from the Royal College of Anesthetists in the UK (2009).
This award and lectureship were established in 1987 in honor of Frederick W. L. Kerr, a founder of the American Pain Society, to recognize individual excellence and achievement in pain scholarship. Since then, the Kerr medallion has been presented to 25 outstanding pain professionals—researchers and clinicians—whose career achievements have made important contributions to the field of pain.