NEW YORK, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, 24 research leaders in six fields were awarded the prestigious "Freedom to Discover" Distinguished Achievement Award at a gala dinner at the American Museum of Natural History. The recognized research spanned from groundbreaking efforts in the field of cancer to pioneering work on insulin action and signaling. The "Freedom to Discover" Awards are sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. 17 previous award winners have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize in medicine, including the award earlier this month to Dr. Richard Axel of Columbia University.
Since 1977, Bristol-Myers Squibb's "Freedom to Discover" Unrestricted Biomedical Grants and awards program has awarded more than $110 million to 370 recipients in 23 countries. The unrestricted grants of $500,000 for five years is the largest industry sponsored-program of its kind anywhere. The grants support innovative scientific research, permitting recipients to use them as they see fit to advance their research or explore areas where normal funding is unavailable. The only obligation of each grant recipient is to serve on a committee to select the Distinguished Achievement Award recipients.
The "Freedom to Discover" Achievement Awards Program recognizes significant achievement in six categories: cancer, neuroscience, nutrition, cardiovascular, metabolic and infectious diseases. Awardees each receive $50,000 and a medal.
"Although these fields are diverse, there is much that links our awardees," said Peter R. Dolan, chairman and chief executive officer, Bristol- Myers Squibb. "They are all physicians as well as basic researchers. They have all made significant contributions that impact directly on human health and the treatment or prevention of human disease. Each has conducted cutting edge basic research that has delved deeply to the very root of disease. Yet most of our recipients, partly because they are also physicians, are also involved in translational research. They've taken basic biological research from the lab and actually applied it to treating patients. Bristol-Myers Squibb is indeed proud to recognize the work of these six distinguished researchers."
Dolan pointed out the distinctive qualities of the no-strings-attached "Freedom to Discover" grants, and noted the unpredictability of science and research. "Scientists are increasingly pressured to predict the future in order to be given the means to find it," he said. "That's because many of the traditional funding institutions in the U.S. require researchers to follow clear, linear paths toward a definite end point.
"This is the great irony of biomedical research today. To receive research support, scientists must more and more narrowly justify their work into distinct and predictable short-term milestones, with definable outcomes," Dolan continued.
"The "Freedom to Discover" grants encourage scientists to follow the winding research path in whatever direction it may lead," said John L. Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. "They allow researchers to make those innovative leaps, to give full range to their imaginations, to take on the riskier projects that may lead to the greatest payoffs. In short, these grants give scientists the freedom to discover the unexpected."
This year's distinguished achievement award winners are:
Metabolic disease: C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., president and director of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Mary K. Iaccoca professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, for his pioneering work on insulin action and signaling.
Cardiovascular disease: Shaun R. Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, for his groundbreaking efforts in vascular biology, including broadening our understanding of the mechanisms of blood clotting.
Infectious diseases: Hiroshi Nikaido, M.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, for his landmark discoveries of the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance at the molecular level.
Neuroscience: Thomas C. Sudhof, M.D., professor of molecular genetics and director for basic neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, for his discoveries in elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which neurons transmit information across synapses.
Nutrition: Jan-Ake Gustafsson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medical nutrition, chairman of the department of medical nutrition, director of the Center for Biotechnology of Novum, Huddinge University Hospital at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, for his efforts in the field of molecular nutrition, providing a broader understanding of how many nutrients regulate metabolism through nuclear receptors, playing a major role in obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Cancer: John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, honoring his groundbreaking efforts in the field of cancer cell proliferation and for his discoveries of how cancer cell growth could be inhibited by blocking the epidermal growth factor receptor on the surface of the cell.
The 10 previously announced five-year grants, totaling $5 million, will support new research to combat AIDS, drug addiction, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
The 2004 unrestricted biomedical research grant recipients are:
Metabolic disease: A grant to the University of Toronto, with Daniel J. Drucker, M.D., lead investigator, will further the study of the control of glucagon and insulin secretion in the pancreas to aid diabetic patients.
Cardiovascular disease: A grant to the University of California, Los Angeles, with Peter Tontonoz, M.D., Ph.D., lead investigator, to elucidate disease mechanisms and design novel therapies for atherosclerosis and metabolic diseases, including diabetes.
Infectious diseases: A grant to Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, with John P. Moore, Ph.D., lead investigator, will support HIV/AIDS research including vaccine development and entry inhibitors. A second grant to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, with Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, M.Sc., Ph.D., lead researcher, will support fungal infection research, including biofilm biology, antifungal drug discovery and the preclinical evaluation of drugs.
Neuroscience: A grant to the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, with Florian Holsboer, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher, will seek to delineate the mechanisms that underlie affective disease, including the role of stress hormones and other factors in treating depression. A second grant, to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, with Eric J. Nestler, M.D, Ph.D., lead investigator, will help identify molecular changes that drugs of abuse produce in the brain, and how these drugs produce these changes in different individuals.
Nutrition: A grant to the University of California, Davis, with Kenneth H. Brown, M.D., as the principal investigator, will help apply innovative genetic technologies to address international nutrition problems. A second grant to the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, with Sheila M. Innis, Ph.D., the lead researcher, will fund development of ideas and preliminary observations in nutrition to enable the institution to compete for larger grants.
Cancer: A grant to the UCLA School of Medicine, with Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., lead investigator, focuses on how molecular abnormalities in leukemia and prostate cancer lead to abnormal cell growth and cellular transformations. A second grant to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, with Todd R. Golub, M.D., lead researcher, will seek to advance the use of genomic approaches to cancer biology.
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical and related health care products company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life.
Visit Bristol-Myers Squibb on the World Wide Web at http://www.bms.com/ and the Freedom to Discover program at http://www.bms.com/freedomtodiscover
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