The origin of reproductive organs

Early in human development, during the first trimester of gestation, a fetus may have XX or XY chromosomes that indicate its sex. Yet at this stage a mass of cells known as the bipotential gonad that ultimately develops into either ovaries or testes has yet to commit to its final destiny.

While researchers had studied the steps that go into the later stages of this process, little has been known about the precursors of the bipotential gonad. In a new study published in Cell Reports and co-led by Kotaro Sasaki of Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, an international team lays out the detailed development of this key facet of sexual determination in two mammalian models.

Read more in Penn Today

Photo credit: Kotaro Sasaki

Bartolomei, Zaret among IRM researchers receiving major honors

The IRM is incredibly proud of our scientists and excited when they receive outside recognition. Recently, several IRM researchers received major award and honors. Congratulations to these remarkable scientists!

Marisa S. Bartolomei, Ph.D Marisa Bartolomei was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as part of its 2021 class. NAS recognized Dr. Bartolomei, who serves as co-Director of the IRM’s Reproductive Medicine program, for her contributions to our understanding of genomic imprinting. She joins 119 other scientists in this year’s class of inductees, a class that includes a record-breaking number of women.
Kenneth S. Zaret IRM Director Ken Zaret has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The country’s founders established the Academy in 1780 to “provide guidance to a young nation that would face challenges and need expertise and excellence to emerge stronger.” Dr. Zaret joins a number of leaders in the sciences, arts, humanities, and other fields as part of this year’s class.
Rajan Jain
The American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) named Rajan Jain as the recipient of the 2021 Donald Seldin~Holly Smith Award for Pioneering Research. Dr. Jain will receive an unrestricted award of $30,000 to advance his academic efforts and will deliver a scientific talk at the 2022 AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meeting.
Dennis E. Discher The Biomedical Engineering Society awarded Dennis Discher the 2021 Shu Chien Achievement Award. This Award is bestowed upon an individual who has demonstrated meritorious contributions to the field of cellular and molecular bioengineering.




Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

2020 Year in Review Now Available

The IRM is excited to present our Jan 2020 – Feb 2021 Year in Review! Given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to pause and reflect on the positives that made a difficult year worthwhile. This short report covers all the events, outreach, and exciting new research directions launched recently and looks ahead toward the IRM’s next chapter.


  • Information about our donor-backed grantmaking
  • Updates on our outreach and education programs
  • Recaps of our (often virtual) events and workshops
  • A preview of the months ahead

As always, we are grateful to the faculty, students, staff, and donors that support the IRM. More than ever, it is our people that make the Institute a special place for science.

You can view our Year in Review on the web or download a PDF version.

Ruth Gottlieb Research Opportunity Fund established to support PARS & PASH programs

The Penn Academy for Reproductive Sciences (PARS) and Penn Academy for Skin Health (PASH) programs are thrilled to announce the creation of the Ruth Gottlieb Research Opportunity Fund.

Named in memory of University of Pennsylvania undergraduate and School of Medicine alumna Dr. Ruth Gottlieb, this generous endowment will support stipends for Philadelphia city high school students enrolled in the PARS and PASH programs to gain additional laboratory research experience through summer internships with faculty and trainees. For over a decade, the PARS and PASH programs have collectively educated hundreds of Philadelphia area high school students about reproductive sciences and skin health. The workshops introduce local students to hands-on laboratory experience and provide access to expert clinicians and scientists in these fields. Each year, students who have successfully completed the PARS and PASH programs have the opportunity to apply for an additional summer internship. The Ruth Gottlieb awards will enable many deserving young scholars from underrepresented backgrounds and within our city schools to deeply explore the world of science and medicine at a pivotal moment in their lives.

Dr. Gottlieb graduated from medical school in 1954, as one of only four women in her medical school class. Throughout her career as a pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Gottlieb was known for her dedication to the training and mentoring of residents and medical students. She was passionate about providing opportunities that would inspire young people to become the next generation of medical professionals. We are very grateful to the entire Gottlieb family for choosing to partner with PARS & PASH to honor Dr. Gottlieb’s legacy. The awards from the Ruth Gottlieb Research Opportunity Fund will enrich the PARS & PASH missions of fostering enthusiasm for science and medicine in Philadelphia students and empowering them to consider future careers in these fields.

You can support the Ruth Gottlieb Research Opportunity Fund directly here.