Titia de Lange, Leon Hess Professor and head of the Laboratory of Cell Biology and Genetics at Rockefeller University, has been awarded the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics, the first time the award has been given to a woman.
Presented by the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences, the award includes $150,000 and a crystal trophy, a replica of the microscope invented by 17th-century Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, symbolizing progress in the field since the prize was established in 1963.
de Lange, a native of the Netherlands, received her Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam and came to Rockefeller in 1990 where she focused her research on how telomeres protect chromosome ends. de Lange identified a protein complex at telomeres, called shelterin, and has shown how this complex hides the chromosome end from the cellular machinery that detects and repairs broken DNA ends. Telomeres undergo erosion in the early stages of cancer development and de Lange’s work has clarified how the loss of telomere function generates genome instability and can drive cancer progression.
“Titia’s research on telomeres has had a significant impact on our understanding of how a cell responds when its DNA is damaged,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of The Rockefeller University. “Her work has shed light on the causes of human cancer and is a prime example of the importance of basic research in the fight against cancer, and I am greatly pleased to see her recognized with this important prize.”
An American Cancer Society Research Professor and the director of the Anderson Center for Cancer Research, de Lange’s many honors include the 2011 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science, the 2010 AACR Clowes Memorial Award, the 2008 Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center Prize, and the 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. She is an elected member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Heineken Prizes are awarded biennially to five internationally renowned scientists and one highly talented Dutch visual artist for their contributions to science, Dutch art and society. The scientific prizes are given to individuals who show unique achievement in biochemistry and biophysics, medicine, environmental sciences, history and cognitive science.
Previous recipients of the prize include Christian de Duve, professor emeritus at Rockefeller, and Paul Nurse, president emeritus. Ralph M. Steinman was honored with the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine in 2010.