Jeremy Nathans, professor of molecular biology and
at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has
been awarded the sixth annual Edward M.
Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience by the McGovern Institute at
MIT. The Scolnick Prize is awarded each
year to recognize an individual who has made outstanding
advances in the field of neuroscience.
Nathans will receive $50,000 and give a public lecture
on April 27 at MIT, hosted by the
"I am very honored to receive this award," Nathans
said. "This award brings attention to the
entire field of vision research and to the many scientists
who have contributed to it."
Nathans identified the genes that code for the three
kinds of light-sensing pigment molecules
found in the cone cells, one of the two types of
photoreceptor cells in the retina (the other being
rods). These pigments are critical for color vision, and
Nathans has shown that alterations in these
pigment genes are responsible for all the common types of
variation in color vision in humans.
In more recent studies, Nathans and his colleagues
discovered and characterized genes that
control the normal development of the retina, and they
determined how defects in these genes disrupt
the function and survival of retinal cells. These studies
have revealed several defects that lead to
human retinal diseases, including Stargardt disease, the
most common type of macular degeneration in
children and young adults.
Nathans and colleagues at Johns Hopkins also have
determined the mechanism of the vitelliform
type of macular dystrophy, showing that it is caused by
abnormalities in a member of a previously
unknown family of ion channels, proteins that allow ions to
enter and exit cells.
Carol Greider, the Daniel Nathans Professor and chair
of Molecular Biology and Genetics at
Johns Hopkins, said, "We are thrilled that Jeremy has been
awarded this prestigious prize. His
outstanding work over the years on the fundamentals of
color vision and retinal development and
disease has taught us much of what is known today in the
field. It's such discoveries of the basic
mechanisms in biology that move science forward in exciting
ways," she said.
The Scolnick Prize is named in honor of Edward M.
Scolnick, former president of Merck
Research Laboratories. Scolnick is now an associate member
at the Broad Institute of MIT and
Harvard, and also serves as a member of the McGovern
Institute's governing board. The McGovern
Institute at MIT was established in 2000 as a research and
teaching institute committed to
understanding how the human brain functions.