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LBC alum Dr. Mark Kay receives MSU Distinguished Alumni Award

November 26, 2019

In October, Dr. Mark Kay returned to East Lansing to attend the MSU Alumni Grand Awards Gala. At the gala, he received the MSU Distinguished Alumni award, which is given by the MSU Alumni Office to those alumni who have differentiated themselves by obtaining the highest level of professional accomplishment in their field. 

Kay received his B.S. in Physical Sciences from LBC in 1980, then pursued an M.D.-Ph.D. in developmental genetics at Case Western Reserve University, graduating in 1987. Early in his career, he saw patients but mostly concentrated on developing his independent research program.  

Dr. Mark Kay with the MSU Distinguished Alumni medal around his neckOver time, he built his career in research and is now an internationally known pediatric gene researcher. Kay is professor of pediatrics and genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine. He leads the Division of Human Gene Therapy and is the Dennis Farrey Family Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Genetics. His research on gene therapy and genome editing led him to co-found LogicBio Therapeutics, whose mission is to develop the next generation of genetic medicine by developing lasting cures for rare, life-threatening genetic diseases affecting children.  

He was a founding board member of The American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy and was its president in 2006. His laboratory has made seminal contributions in non-coding RNA biology and RNA based therapeutics. He has published more than 250 papers in leading journals including Science, Cell, Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Kay says his father, former MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine faculty member and Department of Pediatrics chair, inspired him to pursue a degree from LBC. In 2017, Kay was named distinguished alumnus and spoke at the Spring Commencement.     

In October, Dr. Kay and his significant other, Mary Ow, walked the banks of the Red Cedar and Mark returned to Holmes Hall for the first time in years. They toured the hall and met with faculty, staff, and students. Touring the halls brought up Mark’s memories of classes and labs, and the unique community feel of the college. Their visit also included a stop in the dining hall, for a lunch with Dean Michele Jackson and current Briggs students. 

During Dr Kay’s visit, many first-year Briggs students had the opportunity to dialogue with Dr. Kay in the LB 133 Curiosity Colloquium. At the weekly colloquium, speakers share what made them curious to investigate what they do, and students ask a series of questions. Kay shared that research had been important to him even in his undergraduate years. Research allowed him the freedom to investigate questions and to continue to discover new knowledge. Further, genetic research held a lot of promise in developing effective treatments for diseases, and possibly curing them.  

“I still remember being in Lyman Briggs and being immersed in the culture of innovation and science, which created an environment that really helped me thrive. The philosophy of science class helped me realize that as scientists, we need to educate nonscientists if we want to be leaders that make a difference in the world.” In a world full of misinformation about gene editing and potential treatments, this perspective is essential to Kay’s research work. 

Dean Michele Jackson writes, “I had the pleasure of hosting a group of students to visit with Dr. Kay over lunch during his visit. Mark’s talent as a teacher and mentor shown through as he engaged students in conversations that connected his work with their studies and with potential career paths. We in Briggs recognize the significant impact Mark has had over his career and congratulate him receiving the MSU Distinguished Alumni Award.”