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2001 Gruber Genetics Prize Press Release

Rudolf Jaenisch Headshot
Rudolf Jaenisch

Rudolf Jaenisch, Gene Transfer Pioneer, Receives First-Ever International Genetics Prize

Recipient of Inaugural Peter Gruber Foundation Award Honored for Groundbreaking Contribution in Genetics

ST. THOMAS, V.I., November 2001.-- A pioneer in the field of using mice to study and develop treatments for human diseases has been presented the inaugural Genetics Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. The prize was awarded to Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, one of the first to do research in the field of transgenic science, or gene transfer to create mouse models of human diseases.

Dr. Jaenisch's work has produced important advances in understanding cancer, neurological disorders, connective tissue diseases, and developmental abnormalities in bone and muscle. Some of his work has led to a potential new strategy for cancer therapy, and other work could speed the development of new drugs to fight Alzheimer's disease and ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

A Founding Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Boston, Dr. Jaenisch also is Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Jaenisch was chosen by the Foundation's distinguished Advisory Board, whose members are Professor Beverly S. Emanuel of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Dr. Uta Francke of Stanford University's Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine; Dr. Peter N. Goodfellow of GlaxoSmithKline's Medicines Research Centre in Hertfordshire, Great Britain; Dr. Victor A. McKusick of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Hospital; and Professor Leena Peltonen of the UCLA School of Medicine.

Dr. Jaenisch accepted the prize at special ceremonies during the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in San Diego on October 13. The award, which was created to honor groundbreaking contributions in the field of genetic research, includes a cash stipend of $150,000. It will be given annually to a leading scientist or group of scientists in recognition of fundamental insights in genetics.

The official award citation reads:

"Rudolf Jaenisch, Member, Whitehead Institute, and professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has made fundamental contributions to our knowledge of genome function and regulation. A relentless experimentalist, he has broken barriers by revealing the nature of normal and abnormal mammalian development. Using his insights into epigenetic modification, he has provided a scientific basis for better understanding the risks of human cloning."

Peter Gruber, founder of the Foundation that bears his name, said, "The Peter Gruber Foundation is pleased to recognize and honor Professor Rudolf Jaenisch – a pioneer and one of the world's leading experts in using mice to study human disease. His breakthrough discoveries in transgenic science have had a fundamental impact on our understanding of animal and human cancers and neurological diseases, and his creative research is providing significant contributions to the current debate on cloning."

The Genetics Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation:

The purpose of the Prize is to acknowledge and encourage progress in a discipline that began 135 years ago when Gregor Mendel discovered hereditary laws leading to the science of genetics. It is the world's only award that recognizes individuals who have contributed to fundamental advances in the field of genetics.

The creation of the Prize was made public on May 18, 2001 at the tenth International Congress of Human Genetics in Vienna, Austria. In making the formal announcement, Beverly S. Emanuel, the Charles E. H. Upham Professor of Pediatrics and Chief, Division of Human Genetics and Molecular Biology, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, called it a "truly pivotal moment" in the field of genetics.

The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. Last year, the Foundation expanded its philanthropic focus to the creation and awarding of a series of international awards recognizing discoveries and achievements that produce fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture.