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Scientists Who Discovered MicroRNA to be Honored at 2012 Dr. Paul Janssen Award Symposium

The New York Academy of Sciences to Host Drs. Victor Ambros and Gary Ruvkun

Published August 23, 2012

NEW YORK, August 16, 2012 — On September 7, 2012, the New York Academy of Sciences will host The MicroRNA Revolution: The 2012 Dr. Paul Janssen Award Symposium, presented in partnership with the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. This year's Award will be presented to Drs. Victor Ambros and Gary Ruvkun, who identified and characterized the first microRNA. The discovery of microRNA took the scientific community by storm, and today we recognize that the human genome contains perhaps as many as 1,000 microRNAs that serve as pivotal regulators of both normal and disease physiology.

At the Symposium, Drs. Ambros and Ruvkun will present Award lectures reflecting upon their early discoveries, as well as ongoing research to better understand the molecular mechanisms by which microRNAs regulate gene expression.

Working at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, respectively, Dr. Ambros' laboratory identified the first gene to produce a small RNA molecule able to inhibit gene expression, lin-4, and Dr. Ruvkun's laboratory revealed how lin-4 regulates its target. Together, they demonstrated that these small RNA molecules, or microRNA, inactivate their target through direct, base-pairing interactions with messenger RNA. MicroRNAs have since been shown to play a critical role in developmental timing, blood-cell specialization, cancer, muscle function, metabolism, aging, heart disease, inflammation, viral infections, neurological signaling, and stem-cell behavior. The small RNA field has grown to thousands of papers, many focused on particular diseases and treatments of diseases, bringing the research full circle-from fundamental biology to medicine.   

Drs. Ambros and Ruvkun will be joined at the Symposium by leading scientists in the microRNA field, including Gregory J. Hannon, PhD, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Eric C. Lai, PhD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. They will discuss new insights in the mechanism of microRNA-mediated target repression and specific microRNAs with the potential to inform the design of diagnostic and prognostic indicators as well as clinical therapeutics.

The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research was created by Johnson & Johnson to honor the legacy of one of the most passionate, creative and productive scientists of the 20th century, Dr. Paul Janssen (1926-2003). The legacy of Dr. Paul—as he was known in the scientific community—continues to inspire the company's commitment to developing innovative solutions for unmet medical needs. Dr. Paul's work led to breakthroughs in several fields, including pain management, psychiatry, infectious disease, and gastroenterology. Four of the drugs discovered by Dr. Paul and his team remain on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines.

The winners of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research are chosen by an independent committee of renowned scientists, including Nobel Laureates and Lasker Prize winners. The Award includes a $100,000 prize.

Symposium registration is free, made possible by support from Johnson & Johnson. Advance registration is required. For more information and to register, visit

Media must RSVP to Diana Friedman (; 212.298.8645).

About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at