Tom Maniatis Honored with 2012 Lasker-Koshland Award
NEW YORK (September 10, 2012) ― Tom Maniatis, PhD, the Isidore S. Edelman Professor of Biochemistry and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, is to receive the 2012 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science. Dr. Maniatis is known for both his research on the mechanisms of gene regulation and his Molecular Cloning Manual. Dr. Maniatis will receive the award on Sept. 21 in New York City.
“I am deeply honored to receive the Lasker Special Achievement Award in Medical Science,” said Dr. Maniatis. “I became a scientist because of the excitement of making discoveries, but to see the impact of these discoveries on the treatment of human disease has been particularly gratifying.”
“Tom Maniatis’ work is the quintessential example of the path from basic science to clinical applications,” said Lee Goldman, MD, executive vice president of Columbia University and dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “His cloning manual is used by researchers worldwide, while his research contributions are at the foundation of current thinking about genetics.”
In 1980 James Watson, PhD, director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), asked Maniatis—who was on the Harvard faculty at the time—to teach new genetic engineering techniques during a summer course at CSHL and then to produce a manual. The resultant Molecular Cloning Manual—published in 1982 and often referred to as “the Bible” by students and researchers—contained practically every technique biologists needed to manipulate DNA.
Scientists could now identify genes that cause disease and then produce new drugs such as human insulin; and the techniques were indispensable for the success of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Maniatis’ laboratory developed many of the techniques in the manual, which he coauthored with his postdoctoral fellow Ed Fritsch, PhD, and Joe Sambrook, PhD, the scientific director at CSHL.
Using the new techniques, Dr. Maniatis was the first to isolate a human gene and to use the cloned gene to identify deletion and substitution mutations that cause disease. The gene beta globin, for example, is part of the hemoglobin complex, and the mutations Dr. Maniatis identified cause a blood disease called beta thalassemia.
Dr. Maniatis also created the first complete human “genomic” DNA library—a collection of DNA containing every human gene—which made it possible to isolate and study any human gene. As with his genetic engineering techniques, Maniatis freely shared this library with other researchers.
In other research, Dr. Maniatis and his students uncovered important details of how information in genes is turned into proteins, including the mechanisms of transcription and RNA splicing.
Not content to see discoveries remain in the basic science community, Dr. Maniatis also helped launch the biopharmaceutical industry. In 1980, he cofounded Genetics Institute (eventually bought by Wyeth), which developed blood clotting factors, erythropoietin (EPO), and bone morphogenic (BMP) proteins. ProScript, which Dr. Maniatis cofounded in 1994, developed a cancer drug from discoveries made in his lab. That drug, Velcade® (bortezomib), is now the most effective treatment for multiple myeloma, as well as the forerunner of a class of anti-cancer drugs that target a cellular protease called the proteasome.
From the days of sharing the techniques of recombinant DNA with the world, to improving human health through biotech ventures, “Tom has always had a deep sense that science must be shared,” said Richard Axel, MD, University Professor, and a good friend of Dr. Maniatis.
Dr. Maniatis moved to Columbia University Medical Center in 2010. One reason for relocating was the transforming impact of his sister’s death from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Initially, Dr. Maniatis was a consultant for the ALS Association, but he later jumped into ALS research himself, devoting half his lab’s time to the search for the causes of the disease.
“The Motor Neuron Center at Columbia was a huge attraction,” said Maniatis. “I was going in the direction of molecular neuroscience, and there is no better place in the world to do that than Columbia.”
Extending his influence beyond CUMC, Dr. Maniatis helped co-found the New York Genome Center, which combines the resources of 11 scientific institutions, including Columbia and New York-Presbyterian. Once it is up and running at full capacity in 2013, the center will be one of the largest sequencing and analysis facilities in the country.
Tom Maniatis received his BA and MS from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his PhD in molecular biology from Vanderbilt University. He did postdoctoral studies at Harvard and at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular biology in Cambridge, England. He has also held a research position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and was on the faculty of California Institute of Technology. He spent 30 years at Harvard University, where he became chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in 1985. In 2010, Dr. Maniatis moved to Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. Maniatis has been elected to some of the most prestigious organizations in the scientific world: the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He has also been honored with the Donald Mulder Award for ALS research from the ALS Association, honorary PhDs from the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the University of Athens in Greece, a Scientific Achievement Award from the American Medical Association, the Eli Lilly Research Award in Microbiology and Immunology from the American Society of Microbiology, the Novartis Drew Award in Biomedical Research, and the Richard Lounsbery Award for Biology and Medicine from the U.S. and French national academies of science.
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Founded in 1942, The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation fosters the prevention and treatment of disease and disabilities by honoring excellence in basic and clinical science, by educating the public, and by advocating for support of medical research. More details on the 2012Lasker Award recipients, the full citations for each award category, video interviews and photos of the awardees and additional information on the foundation are available at www.laskerfoundation.org.