NEW YORK – September 7, 2012 – Johnson & Johnson today honors the winners of the 2012 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research in a ceremony and scientific symposium at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York, NY. Victor Ambros, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Gary Ruvkun, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, received the award for their collaborative discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs) as central regulators of gene expression and development, and will share a $100,000 prize.
The Dr. Paul Janssen Award recognizes a scientist or team of scientists whose contributions have the potential to significantly improve the health and lives of people around the world. The Award was created by Johnson & Johnson to honor the legacy of one of the most passionate, creative and productive scientists of the 20th century, Dr. Paul Janssen (1926-2003). The legacy of Dr. Paul – as he was known in the scientific community – continues to inspire the Company’s commitment to developing innovative solutions for unmet medical needs.
“At Johnson & Johnson, we believe in and celebrate the power of science to change the world,” said Paul Stoffels, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. “Through the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, we honor the inspirational legacy of Dr. Paul, applaud today’s researchers and recognize the potential of scientific and technological advances to transform human health. We are delighted to celebrate the scientific accomplishments of Dr. Ambros and Dr. Ruvkun, who embody the innovative spirit of Dr. Paul and whose groundbreaking research has important implications for further medical innovation.”
Dr. Ambros and Dr. Ruvkun were selected by an independent committee of renowned scientists, including Nobel Laureates, Lasker Prize winners, past Dr. Paul Janssen Award winners and others, for their research in miRNAs, which has revolutionized the understanding of gene regulation and has significant implications for future development of diagnostic tools and medicines. Drs. Ambros and Ruvkun each led groups that identified the first miRNA and the first miRNA target. miRNAs have been implicated in a wide range of normal and pathological activities, including embryonic development, blood-cell specialization, muscle function, heart disease and viral infections.
“It is always gratifying when your life’s work is recognized as meaningful and valuable,” said Dr. Ambros. “It is also very exciting to be part of a celebration of science and put a spotlight on the contributions of scientific discoveries to our society.”
Dr. Ambros’ lab yielded the discovery of the first miRNA and Dr. Ruvkun’s lab identified how that miRNA regulates its target messenger. Following their initial discoveries, they worked together to demonstrate that the miRNA inactivates its target through direct, base-pairing interactions. miRNAs have been linked to cancer and identified as regulators of numerous other developmental events in both plants and animals. This discovery has been heralded as one of the greatest in recent years, and opened the door for researchers to explore more applications of the science to future therapies and drug development.
“It is a great time to be a scientist – the opportunities to make a difference in the world through research are vast,” said Dr. Ruvkun. “The Dr. Paul Janssen Award reminds us that whether we are a researcher in academia, industry or government, the work we do every day has the potential to transform people’s lives.”
A web recording of the symposium will be made available on the New York Academy of Science website. More information is available at www.nyas.org.
About The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research
Known to his colleagues as "Dr. Paul," Janssen was one of the 20th century's most gifted and passionate researchers. He helped save millions of lives through his contribution to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines, four of which remain on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines. The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research was established by Johnson & Johnson to honor the memory of Dr. Paul. Past winners include Craig Mello, Marc Feldmann, Sir Ravinder Maini, Axel Ullrich, Erik De Clercq, Anthony S. Fauci and Napoleone Ferrara. Learn more at www.pauljanssenaward.com.
About the Selection Committee
The Dr. Paul Janssen Award independent Selection Committee is composed of some of the world's leading scientists, including National Medal of Science winners, Nobel Laureates, members of the National Academy of Sciences and past winners of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award. The 2012 Selection Committee includes:
- Craig Mello, Ph.D., (chairman) professor of Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School and investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; 2006 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research winner; member, National Academy of Sciences
- Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco; 2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; 2006 Albert Lasker Medical Research Award winner; 2007 one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People
- Michael Brown, M.D., Paul J. Thomas Professor of Molecular Genetics and Director of the Jonsson Center for Molecular Genetics, UT Southwestern; 1985 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; 1988 National Medal of Science (United States)
- Mary-Claire-King, Ph.D., American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle; member, National Academy of Sciences; member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Robert Langer, Sc. D., David H. Koch Institute Professor of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; 2006 National Medal of Science winner; Charles Stark Draper Prize winner; 2008 Millennium Prize winner; member, National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine
- Solomon Snyder, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Pharmacology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; co-winner, 1978 Albert Lasker Award; winner, 2003 National Medal of Science (United States)
- Axel Ullrich, Ph.D., Director, Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany; winner, 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research; 2010 Wolf Prize winner
- Huda Zoghbi, M.D., Professor, Baylor College of Medicine; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Director, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; member, National Academy of Science and the Institute of Medicine; member, Lasker Award jury; E. Mead Johnson Award for Pediatric Research winner
About Johnson & Johnson
Caring for the world, one person at a time, inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science – bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Our approximately 129,000 employees at more than 250 Johnson & Johnson operating companies work with partners in health care to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.
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