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UCSF Scientists Honored for Pioneering Studies of Aging, Cancer, Learning and Memory

By Jennifer O'Brien, UCSF Today | December 7, 2006

UCSF's Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, and Roger Nicoll, MD, have each received a 2006 Peter Gruber Prize, awarded annually to individuals in various disciplines who have made discoveries and contributions that effect fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture.

Blackburn received the 2006 Genetics Prize for her pioneering studies of telomeres, the tiny caps of DNA that bind the ends of chromosomes, and of telomerase, the enzyme that controls them. Blackburn's research revealed the fundamental role that telomeres play in normal aging and cancer. The telomerase enzyme is now a therapeutic target for diseases related to aging, as well as cancer.

Blackburn also was cited for her public advocacy of science. As a member of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2004, she was an outspoken opponent of a ban on therapeutic cloning, a technique designed to derive embryonic stem cells for the study and potentially treatment of diseases.

She remained an advocate of public funding and regulation of this research after dismissal from the council, publishing articles in the journals Public Library of Science Biology (the article was accepted to the journal before her dismissal) and New England Journal of Medicine. She believes she was dismissed from the council because of her stance on the issue.

Read more at Jennifer O'Brien, UCSF Today