Newswise — The Biotechnology Study Center of NYU School of Medicine will hold its annual awards symposium on April 5, 2010, to honor three outstanding leaders in biomedical research. The Dart/NYU Biotechnology Achievement Awards recognize the role of pure science in the development of pharmaceuticals and honors those scientists whose work has led to major advances to improving care provided at the patient’s bedside. Recipients of this year’s award include:
Martin Raff, MD, Emeritus Professor of Biology and Scientist in the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, for discovering how cell surface molecules govern life, death and memory in the nervous and immune systems.
Paul Greengard, PhD, Vincent Astor Professor, Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, The Rockefeller University, for translating Nobel-prize winning discoveries of signal transduction in the nervous system from bench to bedside.
Leslie B. Vosshall, PhD, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Chemers Family Associate Professor; Head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, for discovering odor sensing pathways in insects that may lead to the design of 21st century insect repellants.
“We applaud the honorees of this year’s distinguished awards for their innovative research in biotechnology and molecular biology,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, research professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology and director of the Biotechnology Study Center. “The discoveries of these extraordinary scientists have already had an impact on human health and promise even more for the future.” Dr. Weissmann will chair the awards symposium, co-sponsored by the NYU School of Medicine’s Honors Program and featuring presentations by each of the awardees.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of this awards symposium. Previous winners from both institutions include:
* Barry Coller, MD, David Rockefeller Professor, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Physician-in-Chief, The Rockefeller University, recipient of the Dart/New York University School of Medicine 2003 Biotechnology Alumnus Award
* Emil C. Gotschlich, MD, R. Gwin Follis-Chevron Professor, The Rockefeller University, recipient of the Dart/New York University School of Medicine 2008 Biotechnology Alumnus Award
* Salvador Moncada, MD, PhD, Director, Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London, recipient of the Dart/New York University School of Medicine 2007 Achievement Award in Applied Biotechnology
The Biotechnology Study Center is an academic center for the study of biotechnology with the end-goal of significantly impacting public health. The Dart/NYU Biotechnology Achievement Awards are supported by a generous grant from Dart Neuroscience LLC since 2004 and are awarded on behalf of the Fellows of the Center at The Biotechnology Center.
BACKGROUND on 2010 AWARD RECIPIENTS:In Basic Biotechnology: Martin Raff, MD, Emeritus Professor of Biology and Scientist in the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, University College London, defined cell-surface antigenic markers for mouse T and B lymphocytes and used them to study the distributions and functions of these cells. In cell biology, Dr. Raff discovered (with Stefanello dePetris and R.B. Taylor) patching, capping, and endocytosis of surface immunoglobulin on B lymphocytes, providing the first link between ligand-induced redistribution and endocytosis of cell-surface receptors and intracellular signaling; these findings also made an important contribution to the evolving concept of cell membranes as fluid structures. Dr. Raff also provided the first evidence that most mammalian cells require signals from other cells to avoid apoptosis, or programmed cell death. In neurobiology, he used cell-surface markers to distinguish and manipulate distinct populations of neural cells. He used this approach to identify and purify oligodendrocyte precursor cells and to study the intracellular programs and intercellular signals that regulate their development; he showed, for example, how a novel intracellular timing mechanism helps control cell numbers by influencing when the precursor cells stop dividing and differentiate. Dr. Raff is a past president of the British Society of Cell Biology and was the first chairman of the UK Life Sciences Committee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the British Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Academia Europaea, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences. He has received the Feldberg Prize and honorary degrees from McGill University and the Free University of Brussels. He is a co-author of two widely used cell biology textbooks, Molecular Biology of the Cell and Essential Cell Biology.
In Applied Biotechnology: Paul Greengard, PhD, Vincent Astor Professor, Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, The Rockefeller University, was awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to elucidating how neurotransmitters work in signal transduction in the nervous system. His recent work has elucidated the molecular defects responsible for various neurological and psychiatric disorders and determined the exact targets at which neuro- and psychoactive drugs exert their pharmacological actions. His lab has shown that errors in the biochemical steps that underlie this communication play a role in disorders as varied as Alzheimer’s disease and depression. Recent research has also showed that a gene called p11 is closely related to serotonin transmission in the brain and may play a key role in determining susceptibility to depression. His newest work is also bringing products from the bench to the bedside. Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. (ITI) is located in New York City and is developing novel drugs for the treatment of neuropsychiatric and neurologic diseases and other disorders of the central nervous system. The company began by commercializing technologies developed in Dr. Greengard’s lab at The Rockefeller University. The company's most advanced drug, called ITI-007, is currently in Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of schizophrenia and sleep disorders associated with neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases. ITI recently completed a Phase II clinical study demonstrating that ITI-007 improves sleep in patients with sleep maintenance insomnia. Other programs are focused on the development of therapeutics for the treatment of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and other disorders, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Greengard has received numerous awards including the Metropolitan Life Foundation Award for Medical Research, the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Health, the Ralph W. Gerard Prize in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience, The National Academy of Sciences Award in the Neurosciences, and the 3M Life Sciences Award of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. He is an Honorary Member of the National Academies of Science in Sweden, Norway and Serbia and has been the recipient of many honorary degrees. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
NYU Biotechnology Alumnae Award: Leslie B. Vosshall, PhD, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Chemers Family Associate Professor; Head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, The Rockefeller University, used the fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to elucidate the basic mechanisms of olfaction in insects. She discovered a specialized odorant receptor pair that permits insects to detect carbon dioxide, thereby enabling disease-bearing mosquitoes to seek their host. Sure enough, DEET - the universal insect repellent - works by blocking signaling via similar such co-receptors. Dr. Vosshall has recently expanded the focus of the group into mosquito biology in an effort to study which sensory cues guide human host-seeking behavior and what internal signals modulate blood-feeding. Her target-based approach is developing new candidate insect repellents that may provide solutions to public health problems caused by mosquitoes. After documenting that olfaction is crucial for the Darwinian survival of insects, she asked if there were genetic differences in human sensory perception. Unlike flies, humans can tell scientists what they smell. Using psychophysical experiments in an out-patient setting in The Rockefeller University Hospital, she was able to show that genetic variation in one human odorant receptor is a major determinant of how humans perceive androstenone, an odorous derivative of testosterone: Blanche DuBois meets Stanley Kowalski. One might also call this a device of nature to sniff out nurture.
Dr. Vosshall is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a recipient of awards from the John Merck, Beckman, and McKnight Foundations. She received the 2002 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, a 2005 New York City Mayor’s Young Investigator Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, a 2007 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists, and the 2009 Lawrence C. Katz Prize from Duke University.
About NYU Langone Medical CenterNYU Langone Medical Center is one of the nation's premier centers of excellence in healthcare, biomedical research, and medical education. For over 168 years, NYU physicians and researchers have made countless contributions to the practice and science of health care. Today the Medical Center consists of NYU School of Medicine, including the Smilow Research Center, the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, and the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; and the NYU Hospitals Center, including Tisch Hospital, a 705-bed acute-care general hospital, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the first and largest facility of its kind, and NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, a leader in musculoskeletal care, a Clinical Cancer Center and numerous ambulatory sites.
About the NYU School of Medicine Biotechnology Study CenterThe NYU School of Medicine Biotechnology Study Center brings together an extraordinary group of biomedical scientists, social scientists, legal experts, and business leaders, who are among the top influencers in their fields. The Center was established in 2000 by Gerald Weissmann, MD, research professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine and director of the Biotechnology Study Center, and Nobel laureates Sir John Vane of the William Harvey Research Institute, and Bengt Samuelsson of the Karolinska Institute, among others. The Biotechnology Center serves as an academic center for the study of biotechnology as a means of impacting public health.