Video: Axel Ullrich Named Winner of 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research
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“Dr. Ullrich was chosen for his pioneering work in applying molecular biology and molecular cloning to the discovery of protein therapeutics for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including diabetes and cancer,” said
“He is one of few basic scientists whose work not only has influenced academic research, but also has helped millions of patients suffering from major chronic diseases,” Snyder continued. “We received a number of outstanding nominations for this year’s Award and are pleased to acknowledge Dr. Ullrich with this distinction. His work has had a remarkable impact on human health and truly embodies the efforts of the Award’s namesake, ‘Dr. Paul,’ who helped save millions of lives through his contribution to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines.”
Ullrich has pioneered the translation of genomics-based discoveries into novel approaches for the treatment of major diseases. Working at Genentech, Inc. in the early 1980s, he developed genetically engineered human insulin, the first therapeutic derived from gene cloning. In 1987, Ullrich and collaborators discovered that the neu/HER2 gene is amplified and overexpressed in more than 30 percent of invasive breast cancers. HER2 was chosen for the development of an entirely novel cancer therapy, culminating in the production of an anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody that since 1998 has been used successfully to treat patients with metastatic breast cancer. This was the first targeted therapeutic agent developed on the basis of a newly discovered gene with an oncogenic function in human cancer.
In the early 1990s, Ullrich identified the signaling system involved in regulating tumor angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels in tumors. He discovered that inhibiting a key player in the signaling system (called vascular endothelial growth factor receptor or VEGFR) suppresses the generation of blood vessels in tumors and slows down cancer cell growth. Years later, a small molecule inhibitor of the VEGFR2 kinase function was developed, from which a derivative was approved in 2006 for the treatment of kidney carcinoma and gastro-intestinal stromal tumors.
“It is an honor to receive an award of this stature and to be recognized among so many outstanding scientists,” said Ullrich. “Dr. Paul is a legend whose work had a tremendous impact on combating some of the world’s most serious diseases. Four of the more than 80 medicines he developed are on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.”
“Johnson & Johnson is pleased the Selection Committee chose Dr. Ullrich as the recipient of the 2009 Dr.
Nominations for the 2010 Dr.
* Herceptin is a registered trademark of Genentech, Inc.
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About the Selection Committee
Solomon Snyder, M.D., (chairman) distinguished service professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; co-winner, 1978 Albert Lasker Award; winner, 2003 National Medal of Science ( United States)
Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle; member, National Academy of Sciences; member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( United States)
Jean Marie Lehn, Ph.D., professor, College de France; winner, 1987 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry ( France)
Craig Mello, Ph.D., professor, Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical Schooland investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; winner, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; winner, 2006 Dr. Paul JanssenAward for Biomedical Research ( United States)
Hartmut Michel, Ph.D., director, Department of Molecular Membrane Biology, University of Frankfurt; winner, 1988 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry ( Germany)
Edward Scolnick, M.D., director, Psychiatry Initiative at the Broad Institute; former president, Merck Research Laboratories; member, National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine ( United States)
Richard Sykes, Ph.D., chair, National Health Service, London; former rector Imperial College London; former chief executive officer, GlaxoWellcome; fellow of the Royal Society; honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences ( United Kingdom)
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