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Lasker Award Winners Announced
By Nancy Touchette

The 2003 Albert Lasker Medical Awards were presented this week in New York City to two researchers who developed a treatment for arthritis and to a scientist who studies how genes are copied. Actor Christopher Reeve was also honored for his efforts to increase funding for medical research.

Marc Feldmann and Sir Ravinder N. Maini of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Imperial College, London, received the Clinical Medical Research Award, for developing a new way to treat rheumatoid arthritis using a protein called anti-TNF. The treatment has also been effective in combating other autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, in which a person’s own immune system destroys cells and tissues in the body.

Robert G. Roeder of Rockefeller University in New York City received the award for Basic Medical Research. For years, Roeder has studied how enzymes in cells recognize and decode genes to produce RNA. He turned up three new enzymes and in the process discovered several other molecules that help regulate gene activity.

Reeve’s work to increase awareness and public support for research into spinal cord injury and other neurological conditions earned him the Public Service Award.

After a 1995 horseback riding accident left him paralyzed, Reeve began to lobby private and public research institutions to increase the funding of research into paralysis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and other debilitating disorders. He now heads the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which will award more than $7 million this year to support neuroscience research.

The Lasker Awards, which were first presented in 1946, are sponsored by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. They are sometimes referred to as the American Nobels because award winners often go on to win the Nobel Prize. In the past eleven years, 15 Lasker Award winners have also won a Nobel.

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