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Mass. General's Warren Triennial Prize honors discoverers of microRNAs

Two investigators who helped to uncover a previously unsuspected world of tiny RNA molecules will be recognized next month by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) with its highest award for research. Victor Ambros, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Gary Ruvkun, PhD, of the MGH Department of Molecular Biology, are receiving the 2008 Warren Triennial Prize in honor of their discovering that microRNAs play a crucial role in controlling the activity of important genes. The awardees will speak at an October 29 scientific symposium at the hospital's Simches Research Center.

First established in 1871, the Warren Triennial Prize is named for John Collins Warren, a co-founder of the MGH and its first surgeon, who performed the first surgical operation on a patient under ether anesthesia. Over the years, 22 Warren Triennial recipients have also received the Nobel Prize most recently 2004 receipients Craig Mello, PhD, and Andrew Fire, PhD, who subsequently received the 2006 Nobel. This year the celebration has been expanded to include an evening reception and dinner, featuring a talk by Nobel-Prize-winning geneticist Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MGH trustee, and the award itself increased to $50,000 for each recipient.

Working in collaboration and independently over the past two decades, Ambros and Ruvkun were the first to find that tiny segments of RNA can turn off other genes by binding to the target genes' RNA. The mechanism they first discovered in the roundworm C. elegans was subsequently shown to apply to animals ranging from flies to mollusks to fish to humans. It now appears that the human genome contains between 500 and 1,000 of these microRNAs, which are involved in a broad range of normal and pathological activities and just beginning to be explored for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of diseases. Ambros is a Professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Ruvkun is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.


Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

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