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NICHD Grantees Receive Wolf Prize

By Marianne Glass Duffy

Three grantees of NICHD's Reproductive Sciences Branch have received the Wolf Prize, an award presented to outstanding living scientists and artists.

Dr. R. Michael Roberts, professor of biochemistry and animal sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Dr. Fuller W. Bazer, associate vice chancellor of agriculture and life sciences for the Texas A&M University System, received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture for their work in discovering proteins essential to pregnancy. Their work has helped clarify the mystery of how a successful pregnancy begins and comes to term. They will share the $100,000 prize.

Dr. Ralph L. Brinster, professor of reproductive physiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, received the Wolf Prize in Medicine for his development of techniques to maintain mouse and other mammalian eggs in vitro. He shares the prize with researchers Dr. Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina and Dr. Mario R. Capecchi of the University of Utah (both of whom are long-time NIH grantees, who shared the 2001 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research; Smithies has been supported by NIGMS since 1973 and also receives funds from NHLBI while Capecchi has been funded by NIGMS since 1969, in addition to his NICHD grants).

Both Roberts and Brinster are recipients of the NICHD Merit Award for Excellence in Research Training.

The three researchers will travel to Jerusalem where they will receive their awards from Israeli President Moshe Katsav at a May 11 ceremony.

Roberts and Bazer are sharing the Wolf Prize for their work in identifying interferon-tau and other proteins and mechanisms that regulate embryo development, fetal growth and the immune system. Interferon-tau, which they first identified in animals, ultimately may be useful in treating diseases such as osteoporosis and leukemia in humans. Roberts and Bazer collaborated on the research for 16 years while at the University of Florida.

Brinster, a veterinarian, developed a culture system to maintain mouse and other mammals' eggs in vitro, and identified many fundamental requirements of growing eggs in culture. He was the first to microinject fertilized eggs with RNA and pioneered the application of these microinjection methods to generate transgenic mice.

The Wolf Prize is given through a foundation established by the late Dr. Ricardo Wolf, a German-born inventor, diplomat and philanthropist. The prize is awarded annually in five areas: agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine and physics. A sixth prize, in the arts, rotates annually among the fields of architecture, music, painting and sculpture.


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