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Johns Hopkins Medicine
Media Relations and Public Affairs
Media Contact: Audrey Huang
410-614-5105; [email protected]
April 13, 2006


Carol Greider, Ph.D., Daniel Nathans Professor and director of molecular biology and genetics in the Johns Hopkins Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences, is a co-recipient of the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences by The Wiley Foundation.

The award to Greider and Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, recognizes and honors their discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that maintains the length and integrity of chromosome ends and has drawn intense interest from researchers studying everything from aging to cancer.

“This prize brings well-deserved recognition to Greider’s work on telomerase and it also shines a light on the high-caliber research happening here at Hopkins,” says Chi V. Dang, M.D., Ph.D., vice-dean of research at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The ends of chromosomes, called telomeres, comprise repetitive stretches of DNA that protect the chromosomes from damage. Each time a cell divides, its chromosomes become a little shorter. As cells age, their telomeres shorten. The consequent loss of telomere function will cause some cells to stop dividing or die and others to undergo chromosome rearrangements that can lead to cancer.

Most normal cells do not divide forever and do not contain telomerase. Telomerase protects telomeres from becoming too short by using an RNA template to add DNA to the telomeres. Maintaining telomere length extends a cell’s lifespan, allowing it to divide indefinitely. Telomerase has been linked to uncontrolled cell growth, such as cancer. Cancer cells and stem cells both contain telomerase, which is thought to play a role in their immortality.

“Telomerase has been an interesting enzyme to study from the initial discovery,” says Greider. “As we understand more about the role of telomerase in cancer and loss of telomerase in stem cell failure disorders, the implications for human health make the study of telomerase even more exciting.”

Greider and Blackburn are the first women to receive the Wiley prize in its five-year history. The award includes a $25,000 grant and the opportunity to present a public lecture at The Rockefeller University in New York City, also the venue for the awards ceremony.

Previous awardees are Peter Walter of the University of California, San Francisco, Kazutoshi Mori of Kyoto University in Japan, C. David Allis of The Rockefeller University, Andrew Fire, formerly of Hopkins, Craig C. Mello of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Thomas Tuschl of The Rockefeller University, David Baulcombe of Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Center in England, H. Robert Horvitz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the late Stanley J. Korsmeyer of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

The Wiley Foundation and the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences were established to highlight scholarly contributions that have led to the publishing success of John Wiley & Sons, whose businesses include scientific, technical and medical journals, encyclopedias, books and other educational materials.

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