On May 23, 2022, the Celiac Disease Foundation hosted the Inaugural Award Reception at Digestive Disease Week in San Diego. The Foundation was honored to award the first annual Prize for Excellence in Celiac Disease Research, which recognizes investigators whose research has made a significant impact on clinical, translational, or transformative research in celiac disease, to Dr. Joseph Murray, Professor Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. The Foundation was also honored to award the first annual Young Investigator Prize, which recognizes the exceptional achievements of an investigator in the early part of their career in celiac disease research, to Dr. Jocelyn Silvester, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Director of Research for the Celiac Disease Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. The award recipients were selected by a distinguished jury of celiac disease researchers and clinician-investigators, with the goal of inspiring a new generation of researchers to work in celiac disease. You can read the impressive bio of each recipient here.

Even more exceptional than the bios of the Prize recipients is what they did with their respective awards. Dr. Murray has generously donated his $25,000 award to the Association of European Coeliac Societies (AOECS) Central Emergency Fund to aid people with celiac disease affected by the war in Ukraine, in cooperation with the Celiac Disease Foundation’s continuing fundraising efforts. “Throughout the world,” Dr. Murray explains, “there is a fellowship of celiac support and advocacy organizations who have made it their mission to help and heal those afflicted by this condition. Allied with and supported by these organizations are a close-knit community of professionals who dedicate their efforts to the cause of celiac disease science and care. I have been blessed to be part of this group for 30+ years.”  

More than 14 million people are thought to have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. All are at risk of hunger, especially our vulnerable celiac disease population. The AOECS Central Emergency Fund provides immediate aid to the Ukrainian Celiac Society and its bordering Celiac Societies to arrange and deliver gluten-free food to celiac disease patients remaining in Ukraine and to celiac disease refugees in countries welcoming them, and to provide these refugees with counseling to help with their trauma recovery and social integration in the hosting countries. “When we see what is happening to our sisters and brothers in Ukraine,” Dr. Murray continues, “how can we be anything but moved to help these brave and suffering people by supporting the neighboring organizations feeding them. Please consider helping in any way you can.” As the North American affiliate of the AOECS, the Celiac Disease Foundation is coordinating the United States fundraising effort. You may donate here.  

Dr. Silvester has graciously donated her $10,000 award to create the Jocelyn A. Silvester Student and Resident Celiac Disease Research Award, nicknamed the “Rising Villus” award. The Award provides two $5,000 stipends for medical and graduate students and residents for a 10-week mentored research experience at celiac disease programs throughout the United States and Canada to build the next generation of celiac disease researchers. The Celiac Disease Foundation is pleased to facilitate this award and to continue it annually in tribute to Dr. Silvester’s exceptional achievements in her early career. If you know a candidate for this stipend, please find the application instructions here. 

We applaud both Dr. Murray and Dr. Silvester for being leaders in celiac disease research, and we are deeply grateful for their generosity in donating their Prize funds to benefit our celiac community.