David Allis to receive Gairdner Award

C. David Allis, Joy and Jack Fishman Professor at Rockefeller University, is a recipient of the 2007 Gairdner Foundation International Awards. Allis is one of five scientists honored by the Gairdner Foundation for “fundamental discoveries that will have impact on human genetic development, cancer and other diseases.”

“Thanks to the work of David Allis, we know that another layer of gene regulation occurs away from the genome at the level of gene-interacting proteins, called histones,” says Rockefeller University President Paul Nurse, himself a 1992 recipient of the Gairdner Award who has also received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. “The fruit of David’s work has potential for developing treatments for diseases caused by misregulated genes, including cancer.”

Each Gairdner awardee receives $30,000 and a statue (Le Coeur) at a gala dinner that will be held this year on October 25th at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

Scientists in C. David Allis’s Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics study what happens to genes when DNA-packaging proteins called histones are chemically modified. These modifications, which involve the addition or removal of specific chemical groups to individual amino acids in the histones, can activate or silence genes. Over the last decade, Allis and his colleagues have provided evidence that suggests that patterns or combinations of these histone marks represent another layer of gene regulation that takes place away from DNA itself.

The “Gairdners,” founded by the late Toronto businessman James Gairdner, are now in their 48th year. Since 1959, when the first Gairdner Foundation International Awards were presented, 14 recipients have been associated with The Rockefeller University. The Gairdners have grown to be one of the most prestigious international awards for medical research, recognizing outstanding contributions by medical scientists worldwide whose work will significantly improve the quality of life. Of the 283 Gairdner awardees, 68 have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

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