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Smithies wins top award from Massry Foundation

CHAPEL HILL -- Dr. Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been selected to receive the 2002 Massry Prize for pioneering research on how genes affect health and illness in humans and other mammals. Given by the Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation of Beverly Hills, Calif., the award consists of a gold medal and $40,000.

Smithies will share the prize with Dr. Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah, who has done similar research. Presentation will take place Oct. 26 at the Council Chamber of the City of Beverly Hills.

Before the ceremony, at which the UNC School of Medicine faculty member will describe his work, Smithies will lecture at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Excellence professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UNC, Smithies won the honor for gene targeting, a technique he pioneered. He and his colleagues have developed mice with mutations that model human genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, some forms of anemia, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, a condition commonly called "hardening of the arteries." Thousands of other researchers around the world have adopted the technique since then.

"Information stored in DNA is remarkably similar in all living organisms," a Massry foundation citation said. "Thus, the simple house mouse has long been a surrogate for genetic studies of humans. However, initially, very few examples of mice with spontaneous, known mutations of specific genes were identified and studied. The dream of genetic scientists was to create a systematic collection of mice that had mutations in most if not every individual gene. Studying the consequences of the loss of each gene would allow scientists to deduce a gene's function, and thus to reveal its normal role in the mouse and its very likely role in humans.

"It was Oliver Smithies and Mario Capecchi, working independently, who determined how to target mutations t
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
29-Aug-2002


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