March of Dimes to honor biologists at conference today

May 06, 2002|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The March of Dimes will award a $250,000 prize tonight to two biologists whose work has helped design treatments for birth defects and other disorders.

Dr. Seymour Benzer, 80, a professor of neuroscience at California Institute of Technology, is considered one of the world's leading biologists. In studies using the fruit fly as a model, Benzer revealed the fundamental mechanisms behind eye development and the genetics of circadian rhythm (the body's "internal clock") and discovered genes that control behavior, learning and memory.

The second honoree is Dr. Sydney Brenner, 75, a professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies. In the 1950s, Brenner helped establish the existence of messenger RNA - the copy of DNA that carries instructions for the building of proteins. His other work included establishment of the roundworm as a powerful model for studying how genes control development.

Brenner and Benzer will share the cash award. The March of Dimes, a national organization that works to prevent birth defects and infant death, created the prize in 1995 as a tribute to Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the first polio vaccine.

The ceremony is part of the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Society at the Baltimore Convention Center, where the winners will speak this afternoon.

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