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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 6, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 6
Telomere Expert Greider Shares Germany's Largest Scientific Prize

Carol Greider
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

By Audrey Huang
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Carol Greider, the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, will share Germany's largest scientific prize, the 100,000 euro (about $140,000) 2009 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, with Elizabeth Blackburn, of the University of California, San Francisco for their "discovery of telomeres and telomerase and the elucidation of their significance for cell division and cell aging."

"This is a great honor, and I am thrilled to share it with Liz," said Greider, who discovered the chromosome-capping enzyme telomerase while a graduate student with Blackburn at the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. "This is just one of many examples of exciting research that comes from curiosity-driven research. We had no idea when we discovered it that telomeres would have an important link to degenerative disease and cancer."

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is among the most prestigious international awards granted in the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of medicine. The award ceremony will take place on March 14, the birthday of Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt.

Chromosome ends are protected by special caps known as telomeres. Each time a cell divides, telomeres shorten by a tiny bit until they reach a critically short length, a process that triggers the cell to stop dividing. The telomerase enzyme that Greider and Blackburn discovered can prevent telomere shortening at each cell division by adding on DNA building blocks to each chromosome end. Telomerase normally is found only in cells of the human body that need to renew themselves, such as blood and skin cells. Telomerase also has been found in cancer cells and has been shown to be required for long-term cancer cell growth.

Greider, who was born in San Diego and grew up in Davis, Calif., studied biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and completed her doctorate at Berkeley in 1987. She came to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1993 and has held her present position since 2003. Greider has received numerous honors and scientific awards for her work, including the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, also shared with Blackburn.

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is awarded to scientists in recognition of their special achievements in Ehrlich's areas of research, especially immunology, cancer research, hematology, microbiology and chemotherapy. The prize has been awarded since 1952 and is financed by donations from the Federal Ministry of Health, companies and the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies.


Related Web sites

Carol Greider
Paul Ehrlich Foundation


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