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2003 Gruber Genetics Prize Press Release

 David Botstein Headshot
David Botstein


Peter Gruber Foundation Selects Botstein for Lifetime Contributions to Modern Genetics

ST. THOMAS, USVI, July 2003.--Dr. David Botstein, an innovative scientist and cell biologist whose lifetime of research has centered on genetics and the use of genetic methods to understand biological functions, was selected by an international panel of prominent geneticists as the winner of the 2003 Genetics Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation.

Dr. Botstein, first renowned for his work with yeast and bacterial genes, is widely recognized for his pioneering research from the 1970s until today. He is one of the world's leading geneticists as well as a prominent educator, having developed innovative teaching programs for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Dr. Botstein helped lead the revolution in modern human genetics, developing methods for the mapping of the human genome and for mapping the genes that cause disease. Among his most recent research has been the development of technological and analytical methods of classifying and understanding human cancers.

In a groundbreaking paper he co-authored in 1980, Dr. Botstein established a novel method by which a human genetic map could be produced and thus laid the foundation for the human genome project. He is credited with the discovery of many yeast and bacterial genes and was a leading scientist in mapping the yeast genome. More recently, he has made advances in cancer research, including a collaborative effort to use DNA microarrays to characterize the genetics of human breast cancer. He is known for his ability to integrate information and techniques from engineering, physics, mathematics and other disciplines to develop innovative approaches to biology.

Currently the Stanford W. Ascherman, M.D. Professor and Chairman of the Department of Genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Botstein will become the Anthony Evnin Professor and Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University later this year. After his education at Harvard (A.B. 1963) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D. 1967) he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he rose from Instructor to Professor of Genetics. In 1987 he joined Genentech, Inc. as Vice President - Science before moving to Stanford in 1990. Dr. Botstein was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and to the Institute of Medicine in 1993.

The Peter Gruber Foundation presented the 2003 Genetics Prize - a gold medal and $150,000 - to Dr. Botstein in ceremonies on July 10 at the International Congress of Genetics in Melbourne, Australia. Click here to see photographs of awards dinner honoring Dr. Botstein..

The official citation for the award reads:

David Botstein, Professor of Genetics at Stanford University, has made numerous fundamental contributions to modern genetics. Throughout his career he has been a powerhouse of innovation, and his concepts and strategies have repeatedly opened new avenues for modern genetic research. His contributions cover much of the field of genetics, from the development of methods of mutagenesis of bacteria and yeast, to the analysis of the problems of bacteriophage assembly and of eukaryotic cell biology (such as the cytoskeleton and secretion), to the development of the basic principles of the application of genetic polymorphisms for the mapping of the human genome. Most recently his strategy to use DNA-arrays to characterize normal cellular processes and disease-associated changes in these processes has paved the way towards genome-wide diagnostics.

Peter Gruber, the Chairman of the Foundation, noted that often there is a question whether to honor an individual for a lifetime of achievement or someone who demonstrates great promise for the future. "With Professor Botstein, we honor both," he said.

The Genetics Prize was established in 2001, and it is recognized as the leading international prize in genetics. Previous winners are Dr. Rudolf Jaenish (2001), a pioneer in the field of using mice to study and develop treatments for human diseases, and Dr. H. Robert Horvitz (2002), the recent Nobel laureate who led the way in discovering how specific genes cause the programmed death of cells.

The Foundation's Genetics Advisory Board, a panel of experts in the field, selects the annual winner of the prize. Current members are: Dr. Beverly S. Emanuel, Charles E.H. Upham Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Human Genetics and Molecular Biology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Dr. Uta Francke, Professor of Genetics, Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Stanford University; Dr. H. Robert Horvitz, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, Professor of Biology, Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Leena Peltonen, Professor, Medical Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Helsinki; and Dr. Huntington Willard, Director, Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and Vice Chancellor, Genome Science, Duke University.

The Peter Gruber Foundation

The Peter Gruber Foundation awards a series of annual prizes, recognizing achievements in genetics, cosmology, and justice, and this year will add a women's rights award. The purpose of the Genetics Prize is to acknowledge and encourage progress in a discipline that began more than 135 years ago when Gregor Mendel discovered hereditary laws leading to the science of genetics. It is a major award that recognizes individuals who have contributed to fundamental advances in the field of genetics.

The Peter Gruber Foundation is a philanthropic organization, funded solely by Peter Gruber. In addition to its international awards program, it provides funding for many charitable initiatives, principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands where it is located.

The Peter Gruber Foundation, located in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, established four unique international awards for human achievement--each with cash prizes of US $150,000 and each presented annually. Growing out of the life-long interests, researches, and strongly held values of founder Peter Gruber (b. 1929), these awards are the highest recognitions in each of four realms: Cosmology, Genetics, Justice and Women's Rights.

The Foundation has coordinated its efforts on its unique Genetics Prize with the International Congress of Human Genetics and with the prestigious American Society of Human Genetics. The creation of the Prize was first announced at the International Congress meeting in Vienna in May 2001. The first Prize was presented at a plenary session of the American Society during its annual meeting at San Diego, US, also in 2001. Recipient Rudolf Jaenisch is noted for his pioneering research in transgenic science. The 2002 Prize was presented to H. Robert Horvitz at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting October 16th and 17th, 2002 in Baltimore, MD.

We invite genetics intelligentsia to help us find the most important new developments in genetics research and understanding and to honor those responsible. The deadline for sumitting a nomination for 2004 is August 31, 2003.

Like the other Peter Gruber Foundation prizes, the Genetics Prize is a distinctively international award. Thus nominators should be encouraged that the Foundation particularly wishes to get important nominations from all nations of the world.

To simplify the nomination process, the Foundation has developed a shortened nomination form. Nominators can submit a nomination proposal for initial review by the Peter Gruber Foundation's distinguished Board of Advisors. For a copy of the form, see "How to Apply" or contact the Foundation at 340-775-8035, or 6000 Estate Charlotte Amalie, Suite 4, St. Thomas, VI 00801. Nominations may be faxed to 340-775-8040.

The Peter Gruber Foundation is a dynamic organization devoted to recognizing the world's most important human achievements. We, therefore, welcome comments and suggestions as we further develop our awards programs.

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. In 2001, 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.