Foundation for the NIH to Award Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences to Jennifer Doudna from UC Berkeley
The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) has selected Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., a Professor from the University of California, Berkeley, as the second winner of its Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences. Doudna, a Howard Hughes Investigator and Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology, will be presented the Lurie Prize medal and a $100,000 honorarium on May 20 in Washington, D.C.
Doudna’s work centers on RNA molecules, which carry out the instructions of DNA by encoding and controlling the expression of genetic information. Her laboratory focuses on the molecular structures of RNA molecules, in order to better understand their biologic function.
“It is an honor to receive the Lurie Prize,” Doudna said, “particularly because it represents the work of a great many colleagues, collaborators and students, who are all dedicated to rigorous science and continual research progress.”
Doudna, who is also a grantee of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, was selected for the award by a jury of six distinguished biomedical researchers, working under the auspices of FNIH, and chaired by Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., Director-Emeritus of The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University.
Along with colleagues at UC Berkeley and in Sweden, Doudna, in 2012, discovered a gene-editing technique called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). The technology “gives researchers the equivalent of a molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating or changing genes,” wrote Science magazine in a Dec. 2013 article naming CRISPR one of its runners-up for breakthrough of the year. CRISPR “has become red hot in the past year,” the journal article said.
“CRISPR is, indeed, an exciting area of science, and it will be most fascinating to watch as additional research moves it closer to clinical applications,” said Charles A. Sanders, M.D., FNIH Chairman, whose former titles include General Director of Massachusetts General Hospital, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and CEO of Glaxo Inc. “Jennifer Doudna has not only contributed a groundbreaking technology, she has advanced her entire field.”
Endowed by philanthropist and FNIH board member Ann Lurie, the annual prize recognizes outstanding achievement by a promising scientist age 52 or younger. Lurie is President of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation, which she began with her late husband; President of Lurie Holdings; and Founder of Africa Infectious Disease Village Clinics, Inc.
“Biomedical science has always been a challenging field, requiring researchers to continually search for new grants and other sources of funding. I am pleased to be able to play a part in the career development of scientists who will enhance their fields for years to come,” said Lurie.
“The FNIH is deeply invested in helping develop the next generation of biomedical scientists,” said Maria Freire, Ph.D., President of the FNIH. “There are pressing needs across a spectrum of diseases, and fostering the best minds and their innovative ideas must always be a priority.”
The Lurie Prize was first awarded in 2013 to Ruslan M. Medzhitov, Ph.D., of Yale University.