The NFXF has learned of the passing of Fragile X scientist Stephen T. Warren, who died peacefully at his home on Sunday, June 6. As a geneticist and academic, Warren’s contributions to the understanding of Fragile X and to the broader Fragile X community are immense. In addition to being a gifted scientist, he was an outstanding leader, mentor, and friend who will be greatly missed.
Steve was the founding and former Charles Howard Chandler Chair of the Department of Human Genetics and the William Patterson Timmie Professor of Human Genetics. He joined the Emory University School of Medicine as an assistant professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Pediatrics (Medical Genetics) in 1985. He was promoted to associate professor in 1991 and full professor in 1993. In 2020, Steve stepped down as department chair after 35 years of service to Emory, but remained active as a faculty member.
Steve’s research over nearly five decades focused upon understanding the mechanism of fragile X syndrome and the role of FMR1. In 1991, he and his colleagues led an international effort that identified the gene mutation responsible for fragile X syndrome. Since then, Steve continued to study fragile X syndrome, merging basic science and translational science—always following the leads from genetics to cell biology and then to the brain. He kept his focus on improving the quality of life of those with fragile X syndrome by discovering new treatment targets. Through his mentoring, collaborations, and insight, he extended this work to other disorders of the neurological system.
Steve was an outstanding citizen in science and throughout his career played a major role in the American Society of Human Genetics, becoming the president of the society in 2006. In 1999, he won the William Allan Award, the highest honor of the American Society of Human Genetics. In 2003, Steve was an inaugural inductee of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Hall of Honor for the identification of triplet repeat expansion as the cause of fragile X syndrome and as an entirely new inherited mechanism of genetic disease. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2004, the National Academy of Sciences in 2011, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015. He was a diplomat of the American Board of Medical Genetics and the former Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Steve was born in 1953 and was raised in East Detroit, Michigan. He began his undergraduate studies at Michigan State University and graduated with a BS in Zoology. He continued his graduate studies at Michigan State University, completing his PhD in Human Genetics. Steve completed his post-graduate training at the University of Illinois at Chicago at the Center for Genetics and at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Heidelberg. He was an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1991 until 2002, when he resigned to found the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Human Genetics.
Steve is survived by his wife, Dr. Karen Warren; his son, Thomas Warren; his son’s fiancée, Desiree Chand.