George Stamatoyannopoulos Mentorship Award

About the Award

The Mentorship Award is an honorific award that recognizes individuals for their outstanding contributions toward the mentorship, training, education, or support of students, residents, fellows, trainees, or other early career professionals either through formal training programs or through non-traditional means. The award will highlight the contributions of mentors that have had a profound impact on the gene and cell therapy community and/or individual mentees. 

The name of this award honors the legacy of George Stamatoyannopoulos.

This award is possible thanks to a generous contribution from Thalia Papayannopoulou, MD, Dr Med. Sci.

Selection Criteria

Nominee must be a member in good standing and nominated by two or more members in good standing of ASGCT. The Nominating and Awards Committee will review nominations and make a recommendation to the Board of Directors who retains responsibility for selecting the recipient.


The award may be presented annually during the ASGCT Annual Meeting. Recipients will receive a plaque or trophy, complementary registration, and an honorarium of $5,000.  

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Award Name  

The name of this award is the George Stamatoyannopoulos Mentorship Award to honor his legacy within the field of gene and cell therapy, his contributions to the Society, and his unwavering support towards the mentorship of students, trainees, and early career scientists. 

George Stamatoyannopoulos died on June 16, 2018, at the age of 84. George was born in Athens, Greece, in 1934 and graduated at the top of his medical school class. He was recruited by Arno Moltulsky to the renowned medical genetics department at the University of Washington in 1964, along with Thalia Papayannopoulou, his wife and hematology collaborator. He was the chief of the Medical Genetics department from 1989–2005.

George made many important research contributions to the fields of human genetics and hematology throughout his long and storied career. Shortly before his death, he was the senior author paper in Nature, which combined his interest in ancient Greek civilization with his expertise in genetics to map the relationships between the Bronze Age peoples in the Mediterranean cradle of civilization. It is fitting that his first paper was also published in Nature, describing in 1962 the loss of HbA2 in some patients with β-thalassemia. George went on to make numerous important scientific and clinical contributions, publishing over 400 papers. Among the many highlights, he deeply characterized the genetic basis of the hemoglobinopathies, particularly the β-hemoglobinopathies prevalent in his Mediterranean homeland, linked heterozygous thalassemia mutations and resistance to malaria, studied the population genetics of these disorders, championed genetic counseling, analyzed the molecular and cellular control of hemoglobin switching, and discovered that persistently high levels of fetal hemoglobin in thalassemia patients could ameliorate anemia, an observation that led directly to the concept of increasing fetal hemoglobin as therapy for hemoglobinopathies.

George was the driving force behind the development of the hemoglobin switching conferences, the first of which was held in 1978. These conferences have been held bi-annually ever since. Over 30 years ago, George realized that genetic therapies would be able to cure genetic diseases and applied his laser-like focus and prodigious energies toward making gene therapy a reality. He became frustrated that existing professional societies did not provide an adequate “home” to bring together scientists and clinicians working in the nascent gene therapy field. In particular, George wanted to provide the networking opportunities, mentorship, and visibility needed to launch the careers of promising young investigators. In 1996, George convened a group of investigators working on gene therapy to incorporate ASGCT. George’s goal was nothing short of providing a catalyst to move gene therapy forward from multiple isolated technologies pursued by scientists and physicians working in different disciplines to a recognized field of science and medicine. In 1998, just 1.5 years after the incorporation of the society, George, as the founding President, hosted the first annual meeting in Seattle. At that time the society had precious few resources, but George believed that the society needed a signature meeting to establish itself. George was relentless in pursuing funding for that first meeting. He called every NIH Institute Director, promoting the society and its goals while asking for financial support. He similarly reached out to industry and to philanthropic organizations. As we all experienced, it was impossible to say no to George! Having secured the necessary financing, George went on to haggle the new Seattle Convention Center down to a bargain basement price and negotiated impossibly low hotel rates for meeting attendees. 

In recognition of George’s role in founding ASGCT and organizing its first annual meeting, the ASGCT Board of Directors established the honorific George Stamatoyannopoulos Lecture as a permanent feature of all subsequent meetings of the Society. George’s death is a major loss to gene therapy, genetics, and hematology as well as to his colleagues and mentees. His wise council and generosity of time and effort were critical to each of our efforts to grow ASGCT and the field of gene therapy. 

[Adapted from Dunbar et al, Mol. Ther., Vol. 26, p1871-1872, August 01, 2018] 


Cynthia "Cindy" Dunbar, MD

Stuart Orkin, MD


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