The Albany Medical Center Prize in medicine and biomedical research was awarded this Friday to two researchers for extraordinary and sustained contributions to improving health care and promoting innovative biomedical research.
The prize was given to Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Steitz, and constitutes $500,000 - the largest prize in medicine in the United States.
Dr. Blackburn is the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at the University of California San Francisco. She is renowned for her discovery of the enzyme telomerase. This enzyme fortifies telomeres–the simple DNA sequences that repeat over and over and constitute “the bookends at the end of chromosomes that hold everything in place.” Her studies suggested that the enzyme plays a significant role in cellular aging and may help to reveal the mysteries of a variety of diseases from cancer to chronic stress disorders.
Dr. Steitz is the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. She is known for her pioneering work in RNA, and for discovering and defining the function of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) in pre-messenger RNA. She showed that these cellular complexes (snRNPs) play a key role in recognizing and eliminating introns. The discovery may ultimately lead to breakthroughs in treating autoimmune diseases including lupus.
This award is traced back to 2001, when its founder Marty Silverman started a tradition that will be carried on for the duration of the Prize - 100 years. Marty's promise was to light one candle each year to honor that year's recipient.