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Thoracic Oncology Assembly Mid-Career Achievement Award

Meet the 2023 Winner: Rajkumar Savai, PhD


Dr. Savai is a professor and chair at the Institute for Lung Health (ILH) of Justus Liebig University (JLU) in Giessen, Germany, where he leads the research group “Lung Microenvironmental Niche in Cancerogenesis.” He is also heading the Oncology Basic Research Unit at Medical Clinic V of the University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg in Giessen. In addition, he is jointly appointed as a group leader at the Department of Lung Development and Remodeling at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim, Germany.

Dr. Savai was born in Warangal, Telangana, India. After receiving his Masters (MSc) in Biochemistry from Kakatiya University, Warangal, India, he moved to Germany and finished his PhD and postdoctoral training at the Pneumology/Oncology Department of the JLU. In 2010, he moved to the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim to run an independent junior research group. In 2020, he was appointed chair of Lung Microenvironmental Niche in Cancerogenesis professorship at the ILH, Giessen. He is awarded as Professor in the Heisenberg-program which is given to outstanding scientists, German Research Foundation (DFG). He also serves as Scientific Coordinator at the German Center for Lung Research (DZL); Executive Committee Member of the Thoracic Oncology Assembly of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), and Co-speaker of the LOEWE consortium iCANx (Cancer–Lung [Disease] Crosstalk: Tumor and Organ Microenvironment). In 2018, he served as a Visiting Professor at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute of Robert W. Franz Cancer Center at Providence Portland Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Dr. Savai's aims to understand how the lung microenvironmental niche drives tumor initiation and progression and, most importantly, to identify specific targets that will interact with or inhibit the tumor niche's maintenance and functional competence. The long-term goal of Dr. Savai´s lab is to translate tumor microenvironment-based therapeutic approaches into proof-of-concept clinical trials in lung cancer. For the past several years, the Savai is interested in several aspects of lung cancer, especially in understanding and controlling immune/inflammatory/mesenchymal cells in the tumor microenvironment and delineating the roles of monocytes/macrophages, fibrocytes/fibroblasts, and T cell subpopulations in lung cancer progression and metastasis. He has published 110 research articles (Date: March 2023) in well-renowned scientific journals, including Nature Medicine, Science Translational Medicine, Science Advances, Nature Chemical Biology, Nature Communications, Circulation, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Cancer Research, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, European Respiratory Journal and EMBO Molecular Medicine etc.

He has received national and international awards for her scientific accomplishments such as Oncology Early Career Achievement Award from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) International Conference in Washington, USA, Dr. Herbert Stolzenberg award for best research in medical faculty, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen and Sir John Vane award for Best Recent Publication in Pulmonary Vascular Research at European Respiratory Society. Recently, Dr. Savai has been awarded prestigious Heisenberg Professorship from German Research Foundation (DFG). He serves as a faculty member at the DZL, Excellence Cluster Cardio-Pulmonary Institute (CPI), Frankfurt Cancer Institute (FCI). the American Thoracic Society (ATS), the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), and the European Respiratory Society (ERS).



This award will be given to an individual with a clear commitment to the Thoracic Oncology Assembly and to the ATS, in the form of Assembly participation (committees, mentoring, workshops, document development, etc.), leadership, and promoting diversity. This award will be given to an individual who has demonstrated significant and meaningful contributions to the thoracic oncology field in the area(s) of research, clinical care, teaching, mentoring, promoting diversity, advocacy, and/or service.

Nominees must be a primary TOA member. We encourage nominations of diverse nominees in all dimensions, including gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, geographic residence, country, area of focus and primary occupation. The nomination package must include a 1-page letter from a member of the assembly describing the candidate’s contributions (scientific and/or Assembly contributions) and why the award is merited. The candidate’s curriculum vitae must also be included with the nomination packet.

Awardees will be recognized with a framed certificate at the annual TO Membership Meeting during the ATS International Conference.


  • Must be at the Assistant Professor or Associate Professor level (or at an equivalent rank in a non-academic institution) and > 10 years from terminal doctoral degree (PhDs) or > 10 years from completion of medical fellowship training (MDs or MD/PhDs).
  • Must be a TOA primary member
  • Must not have received a similar Mid-Career Achievement award from TOA or another ATS Assembly


Applicants are scored on the following criteria using a 1-5 rating system (5 = best) across the following categories:

  • Scientific Contributions/ Products
  • Leadership in Assembly and ATS Activities (administrative, committees, workshop, document development, promoting diversity)
  • Teaching/ Mentoring/ Educational Contributions


Nominate Here