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NRFs Wurtz and Fink Win Gruber Foundation's Prizes

Wurtz and Fink

Robert H. Wurtz and Gerald R. Fink

Salk Institute Non-Resident Fellows Robert H. Wurtz, an NIH distinguished investigator, and Gerald R. Fink, a professor of genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have been awarded the 2010 Prize of The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation for their pioneering work in cognitive neuroscience and yeast genetics, respectively.

Regarded as one of the founders in his field, Wurtz has been studying the physiology of the visual system, showing that single neurons in the brain can process visual information. His work has inspired the research of many others in the broad field of cognitive neuroscience. As a result, scientists now have a deeper understanding of how the brain processes the sensory signals that underlie perception and the control of movement.

Leading the list of Fink's groundbreaking contributions was his development of yeast transformation, a now commonly used technique that allows scientists to introduce genetic material (DNA) from another organism into living yeast cells so that the expression and hereditability of the introduced DNA can be studied.

Today, not only is yeast used to study the genetic dissection of basic cellular processes in other organisms, including humans, but it is also used as a kind of mini-factory to produce medically important products, including insulin and vaccines.