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Dr. Inder Verma named recipient of 2008 Vilcek Prize in biomedical science

New York, February 6, 2008 - The Vilcek Foundation has announced the names of the recipients of its annual prizes in biomedical research and in the arts. Dr. Inder Verma is the prize recipient for biomedical science; the prize recipient for the arts is composer Osvaldo Golijov. The Vilcek Foundation Prizes are awarded annually to foreign-born individuals for extraordinary contributions to society in the United States.

In explaining the motivation for the awards, Dr. Jan T. Vilcek, President of The Vilcek Foundation said, We should not have to be reminded of how much America owes to people who were born abroad, but we do. Historically, the United States has innumerable foreign-born individuals to thank for establishing it as a leader in the sciences and arts, and in many other fields as well. In awarding The Vilcek Foundation Prizes, our primary objective is to raise awareness of that reality. We should not forget that so much of what this country takes credit for is the achievement of immigrants.

Marica Vilcek, Vice-President of the Foundation, added: As the only foundation to recognize the outstanding contributions of foreign-born individuals to the biomedical sciences and the arts, we are in a privileged position to shine a spotlight on leaders such as Dr. Verma and Mr. Golijov, whose achievements we are pleased to honor this year.

A $50,000 cash award and a commemorative trophy created by designer Stefan Sagmeister will be presented to Dr. Verma and Mr. Golijov during The Foundations third annual awards dinner on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York. The two prize winners were chosen by independent panels of experts.

About the Prize Recipient

Dr. Inder M. Verma is an American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology in the Laboratory of Genetics at The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California and one of the world's leading authorities on the development and use of engineered viruses for gene therapy. Dr. Verma was born in India, received a master's degree from Lucknow University, and a Ph.D. from The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, Israel. After postdoctoral study at MIT in the laboratory of the Nobel laureate David Baltimore, he joined the faculty of The Salk Institute at age 26.

Dr. Vermas major research interests are cellular genes whose alteration can cause cancer and the development of techniques for gene therapy. Dr. Vermas group created a vector, or carrier, that is now used worldwide for gene delivery. The genetically engineered virus is used to insert new genes into cells in a test tube; the cells can then be returned to the body, where they produce an essential protein that the body is missing. Dr. Verma's group is also studying two genes implicated in familial breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and recently demonstrated that their action is linked to the cell's division cycle and that BRCA1 regulates gene activity.

When the field of biotechnology was in its infancy, the Government of India invited Dr. Verma to join a task force charged with the goal to position the country as a leader in biotechnology. Dr. Verma has traveled to India every year for the past 37 years; he has lectured there on the topic of gene therapy, visited many institutions and advised a number of colleagues, young investigators and students.

For his many outstanding accomplishments, Dr. Verma was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and as a Foreign Fellow to the National Academy of Sciences, India. Dr. Verma was also elected to the Third World Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.


Contact: Sharu Williams
The Vilcek Foundation

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