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Vilcek prizes in biomedical science awarded

New York, N.Y., March 09, 2010 The Vilcek Foundation is pleased to announce the granting of the 2010 Vilcek Prize for Biomedical Science to Dr. Alexander Varshavsky, the Howard & Gwen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology at California Institute of Technology, for elucidating the process and biological significance of regulated protein degradation in living cells. Another Vilcek Prize, for Creative Promise, is awarded annually to a scientist aged 38 years or younger. It will be given to Dr. Harmit Malik, Associate Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, for his research on the co-evolution of humans and diseases. The Vilcek Prize is a cash award of $50,000 and an individually designed trophy; the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise is a cash award of $25,000. Created by Stefan Sagmeister, the trophy is a 12-inch spire, reflecting the upward journey of the immigrant experience in the United States. Both prizes are awarded only to foreign-born American citizens to reflect the guiding philosophy, values, and mission of the Vilcek Foundation and its founders Dr. Jan and Marica Vilcek -- who immigrated to this country from Czechoslovakia in the 1960's.

The Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science has been awarded annually since 2006 to an established biomedical scientist whose work has profoundly advanced science over the course of his or her career. Dr. Varshavsky's research on the ubiquitin system led to the discovery of its fundamentally important biological functions in living cells, demonstrating that the regulated protein degradation underlies major physiological processes. Today, the study of ubiquitin has major implications for research into the causes of birth defects, neuro-degenerative syndromes, cancer, and immune disorders. As a pioneer and leader in the field of ubiquitin research who has ushered it into the age of molecular genetics, Dr. Varshavsky has also helped establish this field as one of the most important and "ubiquitous" in biomedical science, a point of convergence for disparate disciplines.

Since 2009, the Vilcek Foundation also awards a Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise to a research scientist who has demonstrated significant creativity and originality in the early stages of his/her career. Dr. Harmit Malik studies genetic conflict, battles raging within a cell's nucleus as genes compete for evolutionary dominance. He uses biochemistry and genomics to study the causes and consequences of these genetic conflicts in yeast, fruit flies and other model organisms. This original and imaginative approach to genetic conflict has led to new ways of examining why humans are susceptible to cancer and other diseases, as well as to the development of a new field called paleovirology the study of ancient viruses.

"Both Dr. Varshavsky and Dr. Malik have impacted biomedical science through their innovative, breakthrough research," said Dr. Jan Vilcek, President of the Vilcek Foundation and renowned microbiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. "My wife Marica and I are pleased to honor them not only for their extraordinary achievements in the field of biomedical science, but also as American immigrants who have made important contributions to society."


Contact: Beth Amorosi
Vilcek Foundation

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