Biotechnology Study Center honors Jean-Pierre Changeux, Charles Weissmann and Eric Kandel

On Monday, April 24, The Biotechnology Study Center of NYU School of Medicine will hold its annual awards symposium to honor three outstanding pioneers in neurobiology and cognition. The Dart/NYU Biotechnology Achievement Awards recognize the role of pure science in the development of pharmaceuticals, and particularly honor those scientists whose work has led to major advances at the bedside. A traditional Steuben glass sculpture and honorarium accompanies each award.

The 2006 awards will be given to Jean-Pierre Changeux, who established that "allosteric processes" regulate not only metabolic but also neuronal traffic; Charles Weissmann for his elucidation of multiple interferon genes and the pharmaceutical development of Intron A (interferon alpha2b); and Eric Kandel, the 2000 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine for his analysis of how molecular biology sets the stage for memory.

These distinguished medical researchers will receive their awards at a ceremony to be held at 4:00 p.m. in Schwartz Lecture Hall F at NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Director of the Biotechnology Study Center, will chair the symposium, which will be co-sponsored by The Honors Program and feature presentations by each of the awardees.

The ceremony will be followed by a public reception in the Faculty Dining Room. Since 2004, the awards have been aided by a generous grant from Dart Neuroscience, LLP and are awarded on behalf of the Fellows of the Center.

The Award Recipients

In Basic Biotechnology: Jean-Pierre Changeux
(Institut Pasteur; Collège de France)

A pioneer in molecular biology, an art scholar and widely-read author, he is honored for identification of the first neurotransmitter receptor and ligand-gated ion channel (the acetylcholine nicotinic receptor). He has established that "allosteric processes," conformational changes between protein subunits of enzymes or receptors regulate not only metabolic but also neuronal traffic. He went on to define a molecular basis of neural plasticity and brain function: the selective stabilization of synaptic contacts. His work has drawn the outlines of a neural Darwinism to explain "Neuronal Man" (the title of his best-known book).

In Applied Biotechnology: Charles Weissmann
(Scripps, Florida)

An innovator in molecular biology since his days with Severo Ochoa, he developed the technique of site-directed mutagenesis. He is honored for his elucidation of multiple interferon genes and the first expression of interferon activity in E.coli, a prerequisite for the pharmaceutical development of Intron A (interferon alpha2b) by the Biogen company, of which Dr. Weissmann was a co-founder, and Schering-Plough. Pegylated interferon alpha, in combination with ribavirin is now the first-line treatment of hepatitis C. He has also unraveled the molecular genetics of neurodegenerative diseases (scrapie, Creutzfeldt-Jacob – or "mad cow" disease) caused by infective protein particles, prions, and developed tools for the detection and decontamination of prions in veterinary and clinical settings.

The NYU Alumnus Achievement Award: Eric Kandel
(Columbia University)

The 2000 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Kandel is honored for his analysis of how molecular form follows neural function. Grounded in the principles of dynamic psychiatry, he has pioneered the molecular study of how short term memory is converted to long term memory. In doing so he has delineated the pathways and cascades of gene activation that govern memory in snails and mice. By anatomical and genetic means, he has defined the common features of explicit memory storage in mice and implicit memory storage in the sea snail Aplysia, a simple organism that he has established as the model organism of choice in neurobiology. Working with Aplysia, he has recently raised the possibility that an active, prion-based mechanism maintains the persistence of long-term memory.

Previous Winners

This is the sixth year that The Biotechnology Study Center is holding an awards symposium. In previous years, Craig Venter, David Baltimore, Alexander Rich, Eugene Bell, Richard Lerner, among other notable scientists, have been honored. The award also honors members of the NYU School of Medicine community whose achievements have resulted in far-reaching therapeutic advances. Jan Vilcek, Barry Coller and Stuart Schlossman are among those who have received awards in previous years.

The previous winners are listed below.

For Basic Biotechnology: CELERA GENOMICS (J. Craig Venter)
For Applied Biotechnology: ALEXION (Leonard Bell)
NYU Alumnus Biotechnology Award: STEVEN SHAK (Genentech)

For Basic Biotechnology: DAVID BALTIMORE (Cal. Inst. Technology)
For Applied Biotechnology: CELGENE (Sol J. Barer)
NYU Faculty Biotechnology Award: JAN T. VILCEK (NYU)

For Basic Biotechnology: ALEXANDER RICH (MIT)
For Applied Biotechnology: EUGENE BELL (MIT)
NYU Alumnus Biotechnology Award: BARRY COLLER (Rockefeller)

For Basic Biotechnology: MATTHEW S. MESELSON, (Harvard University)
For Applied Biotechnology: WILLIAM P. AREND, (University of Colorado)
NYU Biotechnology Faculty Award: PETER ELSBACH, (NYU School of Medicine)

For Basic Biotechnology: RICHARD A. LERNER (Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA)
For Applied Biology: PHILIP NEEDLEMAN (Washington University St. Louis, MO; Partner, Prospect Ventures)
The NYU Alumnus Award in Biotechnology: STUART F. SCHLOSSMAN (Harvard Medical School)


About the Center
The Biotechnology Study Center brings together an extraordinary group of biomedical scientists, social scientists, legal experts, and business leaders, who are among the top movers and shakers in their fields. It was established in 2000 by Dr. Weissmann, 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.

A list of the Center's Fellows can be obtained by calling the Public Affairs Office at NYU School of Medicine.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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