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JCI's Dr. Elyse Dankoski Interviews Nobel Laureate Gregg Semenza at the Hypoxia Meeting

In light of the recent awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to field founders Dr. Gregg Semenza, Dr. William Kaelin Jr., and Dr. Peter Ratcliffe, editors from the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) are seeking stories for an upcoming special issue on the field at this week's Keystone Symposia meeting on Hypoxia.

In October 2019, Semenza, Ratcliffe, and Kaelin were recognized for their discoveries that established oxygen-sensing mechanisms as an area of major physiologic and clinical importance.

At this 10th Keystone Symposia on Hypoxia, all three Nobel Laureates will present their latest discoveries, as the world takes notice of the field, and the medical advances it has spawned.

Here JCI Editor Dr. Elyse Dankoski catches up with Nobel Laureate Dr. Gregg Semenza, who also serves as a Deputy Editor at JCI, influencing the journal’s philosophies and editorial policies as well as handling research manuscript submissions.

"I’m pleased that Dr. Semenza and I will both be representing the JCI at this meeting and took this opportunity to learn more about his perspectives on publishing," says Dankoski.

Interview with Nobel Laureate Gregg Semenza:

Dr. Elyse Dankoski profile image


Dr. Elyse Dankoski: I’m always impressed by the commitment of JCI’s editorial board members, whose work for JCI represents substantial time and effort on top of their work in lab and in the clinic. What motivated you to take on the role of deputy editor?  



Dr. Gregg Semenza profile image


Dr. Semenza:

The Dean of the School of Medicine asked me whether I would be willing to help. I said yes. The editorial board bears the responsibility of representing the institution, and maintaining the high standards of the JCI, and we do not carry those responsibilities lightly.




ED: What has been the most rewarding part of your work as an editor? 

Dr. Semenza: Undoubtedly the best part is spending several hours every week discussing science with my faculty colleagues at JCI’s editorial board meeting.

ED: Can you share any insights into what you’re looking for when you evaluate a submitted article?

Dr. Semenza: Pretty simple, just answer two questions:

  • Is this work novel and impactful?
  • Do the results adequately support the conclusions?

ED: What was your experience when publishing your initial discoveries of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs)?

Dr. Semenza: The initial discoveries were under-appreciated because the molecular biology work was not of interest to physiologists, and the physiology was not of interest to molecular biologists. We published the work in journals run by scientists. That remains my preference. No magazines.

ED: JCI’s current editorial board seems committed to tackling problems in scientific publishing, such as bias in first authorship as well as data manipulation issues. The Johns Hopkins editorial board has also dramatically increased the number of Viewpoint articles, which discuss timely issues relevant to the medical community.

In what other areas would you like to see scientific journals take more responsibility?

Dr. Semenza: 

The scientific community needs to find better ways to communicate the importance of biomedical research discoveries to the general public on a regular basis. Social media should make this possible.


ED: Dr. Semenza, you spearheaded JCI’s upcoming series on HIFs in disease mechanisms and therapeutics, which will debut this fall. This collection of review topics really showcases the broad physiological relevance of oxygen-sensing mechanisms and their potential to impact clinical medicine.

What is your goal for the series, and what recent advancements are you particularly excited about?

Dr. Semenza: The big picture takeaway is that oxygen is a fundamental physiological stimulus and alterations in oxygen homeostasis play a major role in many human diseases.

The most exciting advance is, of course, the translation of basic science discoveries to the clinic, with ongoing trials of drugs that induce or inhibit HIF activity for the treatment of anemia and cancer, respectively.


Keystone Symposia Logo for Hypoxia Blog

About the authors:

Dr. Gregg Semenza is a recent Nobel Laureate and professor of genetic medicine, pediatrics, radiation oncology and molecular radiation sciences, biological chemistry, medicine, and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also serves as Deputy Editor at JCI.

Elyse Dankoski, Ph.D. is a Science Editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation. She earned her PhD in Neurobiology from the University of North Carolina in 2014. In 2016, following a postdoc in the University of Washington’s Pharmacology department, she joined the Journal of Clinical Investigation’s editorial team. As the handling editor for JCI’s review articles, she enjoys learning about the latest advances across all disciplines of biomedical research.

Follow her coverage of the Hypoxia meeting on Twitter:

#KSHypoxia  |  @elysecdx, @jclinicalinvest


Hear more about the meeting from Nobel Laureates Drs. Gregg Semenza, Peter Ratcliffe and William Kaelin, Jr. on our Keypoint blog, featuring exclusive one-on-one video interviews:


Hear more from JCI Editor Elyse Dankoski & coverage of the Hypoxia meeting on the Keypoint blog:

Shannon Weiman
Shannon Weiman earned her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, specializing in microbiology and immunology. Prior to joining the Keystone Symposia team, she worked as a freelance writer for leaders in academic, industry and government research, including Stanford University’s Biomedical Innovation Initiative, the University of Colorado’s Biofrontiers Program, UCSF, the FDA and the American Society for Microbiology.