Public Release: 

2009 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize goes to pioneering geneticist

Rockefeller University

The recipient of the 2009 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize is Australian geneticist Suzanne Cory, professor and former director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Created to recognize the accomplishments of outstanding female scientists and administered by The Rockefeller University, the prize will be presented at a ceremony in the university's Caspary Auditorium on November 5.

The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize was established by Paul Greengard, Vincent Astor Professor at the university and head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, and his wife, sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. Greengard donated the proceeds of his 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Rockefeller University and, in partnership with generous supporters of the university, created the yearly award. Named in memory of Greengard's mother, the prize was founded to honor women who have made extraordinary contributions to biomedical science, a group that historically has not received appropriate recognition and acclaim.

The 2009 prize recognizes Cory, a world-renowned geneticist and pioneering scientific leader. The first woman to serve as director of Australia's prestigious Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, she has been an influential force in shaping science policy in her nation.

Along with her colleague and husband Jerry Adams, Cory was instrumental in introducing gene cloning technology to Australian research by establishing the country's first facility for cloning eukaryotic genes in 1977.

Research by Cory has yielded key insights in immunology and cancer biology. She and her colleagues made important contributions to understanding how immune system cells known as B lymphocytes assemble their antigen receptors by antibody gene recombination. In later work, they helped to elucidate how abnormal chromosome rearrangements can lead to the development of cancer. Cory and associates further broadened the molecular understanding of cancer through studies of mechanisms that promote tumor formation by interfering with the cell death programs that normally protect against cancer.

Cory's current line of research, examining the methods by which bcl-2 and other genes affect the cell death process, carries implications not only for cancer but for certain autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases as well.

Cory received her Ph.D. in 1968 from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, then the center of molecular biology research. Following postdoctoral research at the University of Geneva, she returned to Australia in 1971 and established her laboratory at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, where from 1988 to 2005, she was joint head, with Adams, of the molecular genetics of cancer division. From 1996 to 2009, Cory served as the institute's first female director, a position from which she exercised a strong influence on Australian science and health policy. From 1992 to 1997 she was an international research scholar with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and of Great Britain's Royal Society, which awarded her its Royal Medal. She is also a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences and was recently named a knight of the French Legion of Honor.

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The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize ceremony, to be hosted by Rockefeller president Paul Nurse, will take place at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, November 5. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs at Columbia University and a leader in the field of infectious diseases and public health, will be the guest speaker at this year's prize ceremony. For more information or to RSVP for the event, contact Amanda Martinez, 212-327-7728 or martina@rockefeller.edu.

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