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2 Biomedical Scientists Are First Women to Win Prize

By Dave Lucas


Albany, NY – Two women scientists are this years recipients of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research ...

Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports

Albany Medical Center president and CEO James Barba says"Dr. Steitz and Dr. Blackburn are among the greatest scientists of our generation."

The discoveries of Blackburn and Steitz, molecular biologists who work independently, are expected to someday lead to treatments for heart ailments, cancer, lupus and other autoimmune diseases. The doctors study proteins associated with RNA, the messengers within cells that take instructions from the DNA and deliver it to the structures that create proteins.

As a child in Tasmania, Dr. Blackburn says she was fascinated by all living things and even as a teen, was curious about life at the molecular level. Her physician-parents encouraged her curiousity. She's enjoyed conducting experiments and carrying on research.

In 2007, Blackburn was listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. She characterized the award as "a wonderful Honour."

Growing up in Minneapolis, Dr. Steitz spent may hours collecting rocks and chasing butterflies with her father, a high school
guidance counselor who had a passion for Geology and Biology. She majored in chemistry and went to medical school because there were few opportunities for women to work in laboratories. She attributes the igniting of career to serendipity, and urges other women interested in science or medicine to persevere.

The Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research was established in the fall of 2000 when the late Morris "Marty" Silverman announced a gift of $50 million from the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation to Albany Med to establish the annual prize for a duration of 100 years. Blackburn and Seitz don't have a direct plan as to what they'll do with the prize money.

Awarded annually, the $500,000 prize is the largest prize in medicine in the United States, second only to the Nobel prize, bestowed to any physician or scientist, or group, whose work has led to significant advances in the fields of health care and scientific research with demonstrated translational benefits applied to improved patient care.