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2005 Massry Prize awarded to trio of internationally known molecular biologists

Three renowned molecular biologists have been awarded the Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation’s 2005 Massry Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health.

The honored researchers are: David Baulcombe, professor and head of the section of plant genetics and gene expression of the Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK; Andrew Fire, professor of pathology and genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine; and Craig Mello, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Founded by Shaul G. Massry, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, the non-profit foundation promotes education and research in nephrology, physiology and related fields. The Massry Prize includes a $40,000 honorarium.

This year’s award honors Baulcombe, Fire and Mello for their research to explain mechanisms of RNA-mediated gene and protein expression. Specifically, they showed how double-stranded RNA can be chopped by specific enzymes into segments that interact with cellular machinery to silence gene expression.

By introducing foreign RNA to cells using viruses that naturally make double-stranded RNA in cells they infect, or by experimentally altering the synthetic machinery by introducing synthetic double-stranded RNA, the researchers found the same unexpected silencing of gene expression.

They determined that these cellular interactions exist not only to identify foreign RNA, but also as part of the fundamental machinery of cells in which small double stranded RNAs are normally made whose roles are to regulate nucleic acid and protein synthesis in ways not previously imagined. RNA-mediated gene silencing has already provided powerful tools to study gene function and promises to become the basis for RNA-based therapeutics to treat human disease.

The researchers will give an overview of their work at a mini-symposium at the Harkness Auditorium at the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine on Dec. 1 at noon. The prize award ceremony will take place on Dec. 3 at the Municipal Gallery of the City of Beverly Hills.

The Massry Prize was initiated in 1996. Since that time, three of its honorees have gone on to win the Nobel Prize: two in medicine and one in chemistry. For more information on the Massry Prize or the mini-symposium at the IGM, please contact Iriba Strelnik at (323) 442-2766.

2005 Massry Prize awarded to trio of internationally known molecular biologists

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