September 11, 2006
La Jolla, CA – Dr. Ronald M. Evans, professor and head of the Gene Expression Laboratory of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, was awarded the prestigious Harvey Prize in Human Health from the Technion-Israel Institute for Technology, Israel’s premier science and technology university.
He is honored for “his discovery of the super-family of genes encoding nuclear hormone receptors and the elucidation of their universal mode of action, a process that governs how lipophilic hormones, vitamins, and drugs regulate gene expression and affect virtually every developmental and metabolic pathway.”
Dr. Charles L. Bennett, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at John Hopkins University, will also be awarded a Harvey Prize in Science and Technology for his contribution to the precise determination of the age, composition and curvature of the universe.
The prize, established in 1972 by the late Leo M. Harvey of Los Angeles recognizes breakthroughs in science technology. The honor comes with a cash award of $75,000 and the opportunity to lecture at the Technion.
In 1985, Dr. Evans discovered how cortisol, a steroid hormone that controls sugar metabolism, directly regulates the activity of genes. Scientists had known since the early 1900s that hormones directed organ physiology, but they had no idea how the minute amounts of hormones produced by the body actually triggered the changes.
Dr. Evans trailblazing discovery of the steroid receptor provided the much-needed code to decipher how hormones control genes and created powerful new technologies for drug discovery. Since then, he and others have turned up a family of nearly 50 related nuclear receptors that function as on/off switches for genes.
Since nuclear receptors wield such physiological power, their discovery fundamentally changed our understanding of human disease and is already yielding benefits in new drugs for cancer, inflammation, osteoporosis, type II diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Dr. Evans earned his bachelor’s degree in bacteriology and his doctorate in microbiology and immunology from the University of California, Los Angeles. After completing a postdoctoral research fellowship at Rockefeller University in New York, he was recruited to the Salk Institute in La Jolla. A faculty member at Salk since 1978, Dr. Evans is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and holds the Salk Institute’s March of Dimes Chair in Developmental and Molecular Biology.
Dr. Evans is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Gairdner Award, Canada’s premier scientific award, earlier this year and the Grande Médaille d’Or (Grand Gold Medal), France’s highest scientific honor, in 2004. He shared the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with two other scientists in the fall of 2004. He has been elected to the National Academy of Science, Institute of Medicine, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He is also the past recipient of the California Scientist of the Year Award; General Motors Sloan Award for Cancer Research; March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology; Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Metabolic Research; and the Keio Prize in Medicine. Dr. Evans’ published studies are among the most frequently cited by the scientific community worldwide, according to the nonprofit Institute for Scientific Information.
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.