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Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Walter Wins Gairdner International Award

By Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Today | April 8, 2009

Peter Walter, PhD, professor and chair of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF, is one of just five recipients of the prestigious Gairdner International Award for 2009.

The award recognizes researchers who have made significant achievements in medical sciences. Many recipients have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.

In announcing the award, the Gairdner Foundation cited Walter "for the dissection and elucidation of a key pathway in the unfolded protein response which regulates protein folding in the cell."

The unfolded protein response is a biochemical mechanism used by cells to recover from a kind of stress that arises when they cannot keep up with the need to fold proteins into proper shape. If a cell cannot recover, it may be steered toward cellular suicide for the greater good. The events Walter studies take place largely in a component of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum, or ER.

"Regulating how much ER you have is a fundamental process for cells, and it is a key determinant for any number of diseases," Walter says. "By understanding the details of this mechanism, we hope to make significant contributions to understanding many medically important pathologies."

Indeed, understanding this mechanism is crucial for cells in which imbalances can lead to cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and vascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

Read more at Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Today