February 21, 2008

PNAS article by Salk scientists wins 2007 Cozzarelli Prize


Salk News

PNAS article by Salk scientists wins 2007 Cozzarelli Prize


La Jolla, CA – The editors of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) selected the article “Targeted delivery of proteins across the blood-brain barrier” by Brian J. Spencer, Ph.D. and Inder M. Verma, Ph.D., for the 2007 Cozzarelli Prize, which recognizes papers that reflect the highest standards of scientific excellence and originality.

The award was established in 2005 as the PNAS Paper of the Year Prize and renamed the Cozzarelli Prize in 2007 to honor late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli. The annual award acknowledges papers published in PNAS during the previous year that represent exceptional contributions to the scientific disciplines represented by the National Academy of Sciences. The 2007 awards will be presented at the PNAS Editorial Board Meeting on April 27, 2008, in Washington, DC.

Just six papers were chosen from more than 3,600 research articles published by PNAS in 2007 representing the six broadly defined classes under which the National Academy of Sciences is organize (Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering and Applied Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Applied Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences).

In their outstanding study, which falls into the category Biomedical Sciences, the Salk team led by Verma, a professor in the Laboratory of Genetics, successfully delivered a protein across the blood-brain barrier by equipping a protein with a small homing device. Circumventing this barrier – specifically designed to keep substances out of the brain – is a crucial step for the delivery of drugs to the central nervous system (CNS).

Unlike peripheral capillaries, which allow the relatively free exchange of substances with the surrounding tissue, the capillaries in the brain are tightly packed with endothelial cells. This physical barrier severely limits access to brain tissue, and only lets a select few chemicals slip in. The blood-brain barrier not only protects the brain from pathogens and potentially harmful substances, it also makes neural disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Gaucher’s disease extremely difficult to treat.

“The failure rate to deliver drugs to CNS is unfortunately very high, so any new methods of drug, protein and gene delivery should be welcome,” says Verma.

A press release describing the research in more detail is available at:

About the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

PNAS is one of the world’s most cited multidisciplinary scientific journals. PNAS broadly spans the biological, physical, and social sciences by publishing cutting-edge research reports, feature articles, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers, letters, and actions of the Academy. PNAS publishes weekly in print and daily online in PNAS Early Edition http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml.

For more information on PNAS or the National Academy of Sciences, visit
http://www.pnas.org/ or http://www.nas.edu/
Class IV (Biomedical Sciences)

“Targeted Delivery of Proteins across the Blood-Brain Barrier”
by Brian J. Spencer and Inder M. Verma

A commentary accompanying this article is available:

About the Salk Institute:

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., whose polio vaccine all but eradicated the crippling disease poliomyelitis in 1955, opened the Institute in 1965 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes.

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