Robert Weinberg awarded 2004 Wolf Prize in Medicine

January 14, 2004

Tags: Weinberg LabAwards + Announcements

JERUSALEM, Israel — Minister of Education, Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, chairperson of the Wolf Foundation Council, announced that the 2004 Wolf Prize in Medicine, in the amount of $100,000, was jointly awarded to Whitehead founding Member Robert Weinberg, “for his discovery that cancer cells, including human tumor cells, carry somatically mutated genes—oncogenes that serve to drive their malignant proliferation”; and to Roger Yonchien Tsien, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the University of California at San Diego, for his “seminal contribution to the design and biological application of novel fluorescent and photolabile molecules to analyze and perturb cell signal transduction,” posited the Jury in this field.

Robert A. Weinberg, a leader in modern molecular oncology and a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is recognized as one of the major contributors to our understanding of the origins of cancer in human beings. Over the span of a 30-year research career, the Weinberg group has continually uncovered major conceptual and substantive findings that have led the field in new directions. By introducing the notion, now accepted in the field, that cancer is a multi-step process, characterized by mutations in several oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, he has opened the way to understanding the process of cancer in humans. 

Roger Y. Tsien, “has made unique contributions to two major areas of research, biomolecular engineering and signal transduction,” stated the Jury. Tsien has opened new vistas in chemical biology, cell biology, and neurobiology, by crafting highly informative fluorescent indicators of cell function. Investigators around the world are now using probes synthesized by Tsien, to delineate changes in calcium level in living cells. His outstanding engineering of a series of designed green fluorescent proteins has provided an arsenal of tools for studies of protein localization and interactions in cells. Tsien's innovative and highly influential research studies have provided powerful new tools for the analysis of cell function and deepened our understanding of cellular signaling.

Wolf Prize in Agriculture will be jointly awarded to Yuan Longping, of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center, and to Steven D. Tanksley, of Cornell University, “for innovative development of hybrid rice and discovery of the genetic basis of heterosis in this important food staple,” stated the Wolf Prize Jury in this field.

Yuan Longping, is “one of the scientific giants in the history of modern agricultural research and has made a dramatic impact on worldwide food production. Under his leadership, and after a decade of cooperative research efforts, among hundreds of rice scientists from numerous research institutes and universities, rice yields were generally enhanced by 20 percent, and China rice production, by 50 percent. To help increase world food supply, he has shared his knowledge, techniques, and breeding materials with scientists worldwide,” added the Jury. Steven D. Tanksley, “is one of the world leaders in plant genomic research. He has contributed to the understanding of heterosis in rice by identifying genes in a wild ancestor that significantly increased yields,” it was stated.

Tanksley’s research has led to the discovery of the genetic basis of hybrid vigor in this important food staple—a discovery with profound implications for promoting the science of plant breeding for the benefit of humankind.

The Israel-based Wolf Foundation was established by the late German-born inventor, diplomat and philanthropist, Dr. Ricardo Wolf. A resident of Cuba for many years, Wolf became Fidel Castro’s ambassador to Israel, where he lived until his death in 1981. Five annual Wolf Prizes have been awarded since 1978, to outstanding scientists and artists, “for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples, irrespective of nationality, race, color, religion, sex, or political view.” The prizes of $100,000 in each area, are given every year in four out of five scientific fields, in rotation: Agriculture, Chemistry, Mathematics, Medicine and Physics. In the Arts, the Prize rotates among Architecture, Music, Painting and Sculpture. To date, a total of 214 scientists and artists from 20 countries have been honored.

Awards will be presented by the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Moshe Katsav, at a special ceremony, at the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, on Sunday, May 9, 2004.

Adapted from a Wolf Foundation press release.


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