Top U.S. Scientist Honored With Prestigious Award

Dr. Marrack Receives International L'OREAL-UNESCO for Women in Science Award

Mar 08, 2004, 00:00 ET from L'OREAL

    NEW YORK, March 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Philippa Marrack, one of the world's
 leading immunologists, will be honored this week in Paris, France with a
 L'OREAL - UNESCO For Women In Science (FWIS) award for her dedication and
 outstanding contribution to scientific progress.  Dr. Marrack is one of five
 distinguished women representing five regions of the world who will receive
 this distinction.
     (Logo: )
     L'OREAL, the world's leading cosmetic company, and UNESCO, the United
 Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization dedicated to
 collaboration among nations, this year celebrates the sixth anniversary of the
 L'OREAL - UNESCO For Women In Science awards partnership, with a promise to
 continue to support the advancement of women in science.
     "L'OREAL's commitment alongside UNESCO in the For Women In Science
 partnership is a concrete expression of our firm conviction that science is
 the source of all progress and that the contribution of women is vital to its
 future," said Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,
 L'OREAL.  "Rewarding distinguished women scientists is only a start.  Their
 example, we hope, will inspire the younger generation, women still at
 university, to study life sciences and later pursue a scientific career.
 Their success will benefit all women.  But the greatest beneficiary will be
 science itself."  Mr. Owen-Jones joins Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of
 UNESCO, in hosting the awards event each year in Paris.
     The FWIS awards program is the only one of its kind that recognizes women
 for their achievement in the sciences.  Each year, five top prizes and 15
 fellowships are awarded, in as many as 20 countries.
     Dr. Marrack was selected as this year's North American award recipient.
 She was chosen for her significant contribution in the area of T cell research
 -- the family of cells that help the body fight off disease -- and their
 effect on the immune system.
     Dr. Marrack has spent much of the last 35 years studying the features of T
 cells and how they can trigger autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid
 arthritis.  Her work on 'memory' T cells has been crucial in the understanding
 of how vaccines can be made to work more efficiently.
     Dr. Marrack is also known for her discovery of 'super-antigens' in the
 early 1990s.  These are toxins produced by certain micro-organisms, such as
 staphylococci, which stimulate very large numbers of T cells and provoke the
 violent symptoms associated with food poisoning or toxic shock syndrome.
     A research investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, vice chair
 of the department of Immunology, and professor at National Jewish Medical and
 Research Center in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Marrack is former president of the
 American Association of Immunologists, and current president of the
 International Union of Immunological Societies.  She is also a fellow of the
 United Kingdom's Royal Society, and received the American Association of
 Immunologists Lifetime Achievement Award last year.
     FWIS awards are distributed in five regions around the globe: North
 America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Africa and Latin America.  The Laureates are
 selected by an international jury of their peers, led by 1999 Nobel Prize
 winner and jury Vice-President, Prof. Gunter Blobel.  The Laureates will each
 receive a grant of $100,000.
     Other distinguished honorees include:
      * Nancy Ip, Professor and neuroscientist at the Department of
        Biochemistry & Biotechnology, Research Institute, Hong Kong University
        of Science and Technology, China.  Prof. Ip specializes in the biology
        of neurotrophic factors -- proteins that promote development, growth
        and maintenance of neurons in the body's nervous system.  Her studies
        have led to the identification of neurotrophic factors as potential
        pharmaceutical agents in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders,
        such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
      * Jennifer Thomson, Professor in Molecular Biology at the University of
        Cape Town, South Africa.  Prof. Thompson has devoted much of her
        research career to the development of genetically modified plants to
        improve agricultural productivity and food quality in developing
        countries.  Her research group has developed an experimental variety of
        transgenic maize resistant to the Maize Streak Virus, a disease which
        has devastating effects on smallholder agriculture, in parts of Africa
        where maize is the staple food and livestock forage crop.
      * Christine Petit, Professor in Genetics and Sensory Physiology at
        Institute Pasteur, France. Prof. Petit is best known for her
        contribution to the understanding of the genetic basis of sensory
        disorders.  Prof. Petit was the first researcher to properly address
        the way to identify the genes involved in hereditary deafness in
        humans, and to decipher their underlying cellular and molecular
        defective mechanisms.  Her work on the sensory system also led her to
        identify genes responsible for Kallman syndrome, the only hereditary
        human disease causing a loss of olfaction.
      * Lucia Mendonca Previato, Professor in Biophysics and Parasitology, at
        the Biophysics Institute, Federal University of Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
        Prof. Previato's career has been devoted to the study of Trypanosoma
        cruzi, the protozoan parasite responsible for Chagas disease, a
        debilitating and often fatal condition.  Her research group was the
        first to discover that the parasite scavenges a crucial molecule --
        sialic acid -- directly from its host's surface cell and transfers it
        to receptor glycoproteins on the parasite's surface via a unique
        catalytic reaction.  Sialic acid plays a key role in helping the
        parasite attach itself to the host and can also reduce the
        effectiveness of the host's immune response.
     In addition to this year's L'OREAL-UNESCO For Women in Science Laureate
 awards, an international group of 15 young women (three for each of the five
 UNESCO regions) will be awarded fellowships valued at $20,000 each.
     Note to the Editors
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