Columbia investigators win 2003 Gairdner International Award for research Two Columbia University researchers, Dr. Richard Axel and Dr. Wayne A. Hendrickson, will receive the 2003 Gairdner International Award in recognition of their contributions that have led to the advancement of health care. The 44th annual award honors achievements in neuroscience and immunology.
"We congratulate Drs. Axel and Hendrickson on receiving this wonderful award that recognizes their remarkable achievements," says Dr. Gerald Fischbach, executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences and dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Columbia University. "Both scientists have opened new areas of research with innovative methodologies and have made revolutionary discoveries about molecular interactions in the immune system and in the brain."
Dr. Axel, University Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S) and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is being recognized with Dr. Linda B. Buck, a former fellow of Dr. Axel's at P&S. Dr. Buck now is a full member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Basic Sciences Division. Dr. Axel and Dr. Buck have combined molecular genetics and neurobiology to address the problem of olfactory sensory perception. They have defined the genes involved in odor recognition and the neural circuits engaged in odor discrimination. Their discoveries provide new insight into how smell, the evocative sense, is represented in the brain.
Dr. Hendrickson, University Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at P&S and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is one of the world's preeminent structural biologists. He developed a method to speed the determination of atomic structures for biological molecules from the X-ray diffraction of crystals. Dr. Hendrickson's research team determined the structure of a key molecule that the AIDS virus uses to attach onto a human immune cell during infection, opening a new approach to the design of HIV antiviral drugs.
Other 2003 award recipients include Dr. Seiji Ogawa, director of Ogawa Laboratories for Brain Function Research, Hamano Life Science Research Foundation, Tokyo, for his seminal work in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a non-invasive method for imaging areas of the brain. This method has produced a technological revolution in cognitive neuroscience and is being explored in such clinical domains as aging and pre-surgical mapping.
Also to receive a Gairdner International Award is Dr. Ralph M. Steinman, Henry G. Kunkel Professor and senior physician, Rockefeller University, New York. Dr. Steinman's research addresses the fundamental mechanisms of immunity and the interface of several disease states with the immune system. This includes studies aimed at developing vaccines and immune-based therapies for tumors, infections and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Steinman discovered dendritic cells that are critical sentinels of the immune system differentiating between self and non-self, controlling responses from immune silencing (tolerance) to resistance (immunity).
Gairdner award winners will accept their awards, each of which is $30,000 Canadian, at a gala dinner in Toronto on Oct. 23. Also that month, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Gairdner Foundation will mount a national program of public lectures by Gairdner Award winners and a public symposium.
Established in 1767, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S) was the first institution in the United States to grant the M.D. degree. The school is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York state and one of the largest in the country. P&S faculty were instrumental in forging the world's first academic medical center, the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. For more information, visit www.healthsciences.columbia.edu.
Established in 1957 by Toronto businessman James Gairdner, the Gairdner Foundation (www.gairdner.org) first recognized achievement in medical science in 1959. Over the past 44 years, the awards have grown to be one of the most prestigious international awards in medical research. Of the past 264 international awardees, in a variety of disciplines from genetic research to cancer therapy, 59 have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.