2006 Laureate Lecture Series Schedule Features Nobel Laureate, Three Other Prominent Scientists
PITTSBURGH, March 23, 2006 — The 2006 Senior Vice Chancellor’s Laureate Lecture Series at the University of Pittsburgh features four acclaimed biomedical researchers, including one whose work with nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system won him a Nobel Prize.
Other speakers’ individual fields of expertise include the role of Hedgehog signaling molecules, which facilitate intercellular communications in embryonic development, cell differentiation and cancer; molecular genetic analyses of yeast, an area of research that has strongly influenced nearly all aspects of mammalian cell biology; and pioneering work with telomerase, an important enzyme in DNA replication, and its profound implications for understanding cancer biology.
The lineup of dates and speakers includes:
Tuesday, April 18 — “Discovery of the Nitric Oxide-Cyclic GMP Signaling Pathway and Application to Drug Discovery” by Nobel laureate Ferid Murad, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Wednesday, May 17 — “Hedgehog Signaling in Development and Disease” by Philip A. Beachy, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Thursday, Sept. 7 — “Repeated DNA—Its Role in Virulence, Evolution and Cancer” by Gerald R. Fink, Ph.D., a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and American Cancer Society Professor of Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thursday, Nov. 9 — “Telomerase in Cancer and Stem Cell Failure” by Carol W. Greider, Ph.D., Daniel Nathans Professor and director of the department of molecular biology and genetics and professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
All of the lectures, which are free and open to the public, will begin at noon in Auditorium 6 of Scaife Hall, 3550 Terrace St., on the university’s Oakland campus.
“Great science doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It feeds on the exchange of creative thinking and imaginative application of scientific principles, which is what we hope to promote each year with the popular Laureate Lecture Series,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, dean of the School of Medicine
, and founder of the series.
“This year’s speakers represent some of the leading investigators of our day,” he added. “Their work will hold great appeal for broad segments of our researchers at the University, and I’m pleased that the speakers themselves will have a chance to see what a dynamic research environment we have here.”
About the speakers
Dr. Murad won the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with co-recipients Robert F. Furchgott and Louis J. Ignarro for the discovery that nitric oxide can signal blood vessels to relax and widen, thus lowering blood pressure. As a result of these findings, nitric oxide is now recognized for applications ranging from treatment of heart disease and shock to reducing the possibility of pulmonary hypertension in premature babies. Dr. Murad studies how nitric oxide molecules form, break down and function in various cellular signaling processes. He also examines those characteristics of cyclic GMP, a messenger molecule that activates protein kinases, enzymes that modify large proteins, such as hormones, to allow them to penetrate the cellular membrane. Another focus of his research is the formation of peroxynitrite from nitric oxide and the nitration of various cellular proteins. Peroxynitrite can react with DNA, proteins and lipids under certain conditions in the cell, leading to damage and cytotoxicity. Among Dr. Murad’s many honors are the Albert and Mary Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the American Heart Association Ciba Award and the Baxter Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Dr. Murad is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Philip A. Beachy
Dr. Beachy’s research interests center on the molecular mechanisms that organize the growth of multicellular embryos. The major focus of his work has been on cell-to-cell signals such as the secreted proteins of the Hedgehog family, which are expressed in embryonic development and produce graded responses in nearby cells. Dr. Beachy received the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology for his studies of the processing and structure and covalent attachment to cholesterol of a developmental morphogen, a molecule which helps to regulate the shape and spatial distribution of tissues and organs during development. For his work on the molecular mechanisms that guide embryonic development, he subsequently was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Beachy’s latest research efforts are concentrated on a detailed understanding of the steps involved in transducing the Hedgehog signal from the cell surface to the nucleus. His work has begun to shift from embryonic patterning to postembryonic Hedgehog signaling activities, which are becoming important factors in tissue regeneration and cancer. Other honors he has received include election as fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Gerald R. Fink
Dr. Fink is a founding member of the Whitehead Institute, of which he served as director from 1990 to 2001. His research focuses on the molecular biology of fungal infectious disease. Dr. Fink is known for his pioneering genetics work in the use of baker’s yeast as a model system for exploring key pathways in cell growth and metabolism and for numerous discoveries that have advanced the understanding of gene regulation, mutation and recombination. Among his many awards are the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology, the Genetics Society of America Medal, Denmark’s Emil Christian Hansen Award, the Yale Science and Engineering Award, a Senior Scholar Award in Global Infectious Disease from the Ellison Medical Foundation and the George W. Beadle Award. Dr. Fink has served as president of the Genetics Society of America. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Philosophical Society, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Biozentrum in Switzerland, the medical advisory board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Salk Institute Board of Trustees.
Carol W. Greider
While a graduate student working with Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Greider discovered telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomeres, the terminal segments of chromosomes that are essential for replication and stability. She first isolated and characterized telomerase from the single-cell ciliate Tetrahymena; she later cloned and characterized the RNA component of telomerase and eventually expanded the focus of her telomere research to include the role of telomere length in cell death and in cancer. After joining and eventually attaining full investigator status at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Dr. Greider moved to Johns Hopkins University, where she currently directs a group of 10 researchers who are focused on understanding telomeres and telomerase and their role in chromosome stability, cancer and stem cell failure. Dr. Greider is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her honors include the Richard Lounsbery Award, the Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science, the Passano Foundation Award, the Gairdner Foundation Award and a Senior Scholar Award in Aging from the Ellison Medical Foundation.
The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
include the schools of Medicine
, Dental Medicine
, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
and the Graduate School of Public Health
. The schools serve as the academic partner to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Together, their combined mission is to train tomorrow's health care specialists and biomedical scientists, engage in groundbreaking research that will advance understanding of the causes and treatments of disease, and participate in the delivery of outstanding patient care. In fiscal year 2004, Pitt and its institutional affiliates ranked 7 th nationally among educational institutions in grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Approximately 93 percent of the $396 million in NIH funding went to the Schools of the Health Sciences and their affiliates.