Carol Greider, Ph.D., Daniel Nathans Professor and director of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will share the 100,000 euro 2009 Paul Erlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize with Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco for their “discovery of telomeres and telomerase and the elucidation of their significance for cell division and cell aging.”
“This is a great honor, and I am thrilled to share it with Liz,” says Greider, who discovered the chromosome-capping enzyme telomerase while a graduate student with Blackburn at the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. “This is just one of many examples of exciting research that comes from curiosity-driven research. We had no idea when we discovered it that telomeres would have an important link to degenerative disease and cancer.”
The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is among the most prestigious international awards granted in the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of medicine. The award ceremony will take place in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt on March 14, 2009, the birthday of Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915).
Chromosome ends are protected by special caps—telomeres. Each time a cell divides, telomeres shorten by a tiny bit until they reach a critically short length, which triggers the cell to stop dividing. The telomerase enzyme that Greider and Blackburn discovered can prevent telomere shortening at each cell division by adding on DNA building blocks to each chromosome end. Telomerase normally only is found in cells of the human body that need to renew themselves, such as blood and skin cells. Telomerase also has been found in cancer cells and has been shown to be required for long-term cancer cell growth.
Greider was born in San Diego, Calif., on April 15, 1961, grew up in Davis, Calif., and studied biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She made her seminal discovery while a graduate student and completed her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1987. She has been at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore since 1993, and the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics since 2003. Greider has received numerous honors and scientific awards for her work, including the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research 2006 also with Blackburn.
The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is traditionally presented on Paul Ehrlich's birthday, March 14, in the Frankfurt Paulskirche. It is awarded to scientists in recognition of their special achievements in Paul Ehrlich's field of research, especially immunology, cancer research, hematology, microbiology and chemotherapy. The prize, which has been awarded since 1952, is financed by donations from the Federal Ministry of Health, companies and the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies.