The Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research may be the biggest prize you've never heard of, and it is big: half a million dollars, to be shared this year by two "towering figures" in cell biology from New York's Rockefeller University. The honors were bestowed May 11 at a ceremony for these eminent Rock research scientists heading laboratories in Molecular Cell Biology and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology:
- James E. Darnell Jr., M.D., who is considered the “father” of RNA processing and cytokine signaling
- Robert G. Roeder, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of gene transcription in animal cells
According to James Barba, president of Albany Medical Center and chairman of the Prize Selection Committee:
“Understanding how our cells express their genetic information provides insight into all of human health. By helping to define how cells grow, replicate, and become specialized, these two scientists have allowed countless other scientists and physicians to explore new ways to fight disease including viruses, heart disease, anemia and autoimmune disorders. I commend Drs. Darnell and Roeder for their extraordinary lifetime contributions.”
[Photo courtesy of the Albany Times-Union]
The $500,000 prize is in fact the largest award in medicine and science in the United States. At the recent ceremony, each of the men, with careers spanning 57 and 43 years (and counting), talked about his early love of laboratory experimentation. For Dr. Darnell, now 81, it was in medical school that he found his calling:
"I found out at the bench, transferring bacteria, that I had found my home. It's wonderful to be able to carry out an experiment with your own hands. You put something in and you stand waiting with bated breath to see what comes out the other end. It's that waiting... that identifies you as a potential scientist."
Dr. Roeder, 69, traces his lab roots to high school chemistry:
"I simply had a constant curiosity about unsolved problems."
"I had no idea 20, 30, 40 years ago, of the complexity of the problem I was studying or I may have chosen something else...But probably not. I like challenges. I like solving problems and I like solving them first."
Rock says of its Molecular, Cell and Developmental Research Biology program:
Modern cell biology was founded at Rockefeller more than a half century ago with the introduction of the electron microscope. The field has since evolved into a molecular phase, which focuses on how cellular and extracellular macromolecules interact and communicate with each other to give rise to specific functions and responses. Along with microscopic and biochemical approaches, Rockefeller scientists use a full range of techniques from structural biology, biophysics, physiology and genetics.
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