“She has shown that changes in protein folding can have profound and unexpected influences in fields as wide-ranging as human disease, evolution and nanotechnology. She developed yeast strains that serve as living test tubes in which to study these disorders, unraveling how protein folding contributes to them,” the jury from various Berlin-based research institutions* stated.
Protein misfolding has been implicated as a major mechanism in many severe neurological disorders including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Professor Lindquist, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and her colleagues have succeeded in reproducing many of the biological consequences of Parkinson’s disease in yeast cells and are screening for drugs to prevent and treat the disease.
Her research also involves heat shock proteins, a group of molecular chaperone proteins that guide other proteins to fold and mature correctly. “The heat-shock response, controlled by heat shock transcription factor 1 (HSF1), is one of the most ancient and highly conserved mechanisms of protein homeostasis known. It regulates a multitude of growth responses and prevents the protein aggregation associated with aging and neurodegeneration. Ironically, however, eliminating HSF1 actually protects mice from certain tumors. Thus the heat-shock response is a double-edged sword in the prevention of deadly diseases,” Lindquist pointed out.
Awarded annually since 1992, the Max Delbrück Medal is presented to outstanding scientists on the occasion of the “Berlin Lecture on Molecular Medicine” given by the award recipient. The topic of Professor Lindquist’s lecture was “HSF and the Balancing Act between Neurodegeneration and Cancer”. Susan Lindquist is the fourth scientist from the Whitehead Institute to receive this honor after Robert Weinberg (1996), Eric S. Lander (2001) and Rudolf Jaenisch (2006).
In October 2010 President Barack Obama named Susan Lindquist a recipient of the National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States. She previously was the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences from 1999-2001, and a Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology, University of Chicago, since 1978. She received a PhD in Biology from Harvard University in 1976, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997, the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 and the Institute of Medicine in 2006.
The Max Delbrück Medal is named after physicist and biologist and Nobel Prize winner (1969) Max Delbrück (1906 Berlin, Germany – 1981 Pasadena, California, USA), who is considered to be one of the co-founders of molecular biology. After the Wall fell, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin-Buch, founded in 1992, was named after him.
The first Max Delbrück Medal recipient was Professor Günter Blobel from Rockefeller University of New York, who later received the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
* Bayer Schering Pharma, Charite – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), Freie Universität Berlin (FU), Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP), Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, German Rheumatism Research Center, Berlin (DRFZ).
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