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Medical researchers Rowley and Koshland win "America's Nobels"

Often called "America's Nobels," the Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards are considered the nation's most distinguished prize in medical research. Of the more than 300 recipients to date, 59 have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Past dual-award winners include such giants as Charles B. Huggins, the late U of C professor emeritus and cancer researcher, and geneticist James D. Watson, PhB'46, SB'47.

This September, two more scientists with U of C ties claimed Laskers: Janet Davison Rowley, PhB'45, SB'46, MD'48, and Daniel E. Koshland, Jr., PhD'49. The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation awarded Rowley, the U of C's Blum-Riese distinguished service professor of medicine and of molecular genetics & cell biology, the 1998 clinical-medicine research prize, which she shared with University of Pennsylvania professor Peter Nowell and Alfred Knudson, former president of Philadelphia's Fox Chase Cancer Center. The 1998 Lasker award for special achievement in medical science went to Koshland, a professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Three other researchers received the Lasker prize for basic medical research.

Rowley, Nowell, and Knudson were honored for their combined discoveries of the genetic alterations that cause cancer in humans and that permit cancer diagnosis at the molecular level. "It is not only a thrill to win the Lasker Award," says Rowley, "but it is also a great honor to be named along with two such distinguished scientists and to share the prize with two such good friends."

Koshland was recognized for his research, his work as editor from 1985-95 of the journal Science, and his efforts to improve teaching of the biological sciences. "It's a good award and I am very pleased," says Koshland. "It's nice to know that people think what you did was important."

Rowley, 73, has spent her entire professional career at the U of C, where she has shown how certain chromosome alterations cause different cancers. Rowley continues to test new techniques in the lab. Using spectral karyotyping, she is trying to identify the mechanisms of chromosome rearrangement by focusing on a leukemia-causing chromosome translocation, or exchange of DNA, that is seen only in patients previously treated with certain drugs.

At 78, Koshland continues to teach and research and also serves on the Council for the National Academy of Sciences. In his 33 years at Berkeley, Koshland has produced major advances in the understanding of enzymes and protein chemistry. Now studying the chemical reactions involved in Alzheimer's disease by analyzing brain-cell changes, he also is investigating how to convert the chlorine in chlorinated compounds like DDT into harmless salts.

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