PHILADELPHIA  Benjamin F. Voight, PhD, an assistant professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and of Genetics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This award is the highest honor given by the United States government to scientists and engineers during the early stages of their independent research careers.

Earlier this month, former President Barak Obama named 102 recipients of the PECASE award based on recommendations from participating federal agencies. Voight was among the recipients put forward by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the White House press release, the recipients are selected for their “pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and for their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.” Former President Bill Clinton established the PECASE award in 1996.

 “It is an incredible honor to be selected for this award in recognition of the importance of our work to develop computational methods to identify genetic risk factors and genes associated with type-2 diabetes,” Voight said. His research is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, which nominated Voight for this prestigious award.

Voight is a human geneticist and computational biologist who studies the influence of DNA sequence variation on complex human disease. His recent work has focused on mapping risk alleles for type-2 diabetes and heart attack. “One of several important research directions in my group is to convert findings from human genetic studies into new leads for potential therapeutic targets over the long term,” said Voight.

Voight received his bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Mathematics from the University of Washington, in Seattle in 2001, and his PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Chicago in 2006. He subsequently worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center of Human Genetics Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital from 2006 until 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he led projects as a research scientist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. In September 2011, he joined Penn’s faculty at the Perelman School of Medicine. In addition to his departmental affiliations, he is a member of Penn’s Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics and the Institute for Biomedical Informatics.

Voight envisions that the computational methods and tools being created in his lab will assist in the analysis of genomic data collected from hundreds of thousands of people. “It is a fantastic time to be a computational biologist. The data available today provide so many new and interesting avenues for research. I am thrilled that the PECASE recognizes the value of our ongoing work and research mission.”

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $6.7 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2016 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2016, Penn Medicine provided $393 million to benefit our community.