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White House awards National Medal of Science to Rockefeller University's James Darnell

James E. Darnell Jr., M.D., a pioneering researcher in the field of gene regulation, will receive the National Medal of Science, the White House announced today. Darnell is among eight American scientists to receive the award, the nation's highest honor for lifetime achievement in fields of scientific research.

The 12th Rockefeller scientist to receive this award, Darnell will receive the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 6.

"Jim Darnell's research has advanced our understanding about how genes in the nucleus of a body cell copy their instructions into a format that the cell's internal machinery can translate at the right time and at the proper rate," explains Paul Nurse, Ph.D., president of Rockefeller University since Sept. 1. The format is messenger RNA. The DNA in genes inside a cell's nucleus sends its message to the cell's protein-making machinery via messenger RNA.

Darnell's many scientific achievements include the discovery of a pathway by which "molecular cues" on the outside surface of a cell signal the genes in that cell's nucleus to take specific actions.

"These signals are sent in reaction to changes in the cell's external environment in the body," explains Nurse, a Nobel laureate. "As a result of the signals, the genes may express a message for a specific hormone or other protein, or halt gene expression or activation.

"Such communications contribute to the survival of cells and indeed the entire organism," says Nurse.

The relevance of Darnell's gene regulation research to human health is illustrated particularly by his relatively recent discovery of a cell-signaling route called the JAK-STAT pathway. This pathway has yielded important new insights into the biology of specific human cancers, including multiple myeloma and head and neck tumors.

"This discovery has promoted a flurry of research into the ways cells receive signals to become and remain specializ
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Contact: Joseph Bonner
bonnerj@rockefeller.edu
212-327-8998
Rockefeller University
22-Oct-2003


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