PHILADELPHIA — The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor David Baltimore, PhD, president emeritus and Robert Andrews Millikan professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, with the 11th annual AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship at the AACR Annual Meeting 2015, to be held in Philadelphia, April 18-22.
Baltimore, who is a fellow of the AACR Academy, is being recognized for his work in immunology, virology, and cancer research. His pioneering research efforts have greatly contributed to the use of gene therapy methods to treat not only cancer, but other diseases such as AIDS, and his insights over the years have spurred innovative thinking on the part of scientists and physicians around the world. Baltimore received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1975 for his work on viral replication and his discovery of reverse transcriptase — the enzyme that generates DNA from RNA — which revolutionized molecular biology and has been essential to understanding the lifecycle of retroviruses such as HIV.
Baltimore will present his lecture, “MicroRNAs, Leukemia, and Hematopoietic Stem Cells Homeostasis,” Saturday, April 18, 5:30 p.m. ET, in the Grand Ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2004 to acknowledge an individual whose outstanding innovations in science and whose position as a thought leader have the potential to inspire creative thinking and new directions in cancer research. The recipient is selected by the AACR president and is not open to nominations.
“Dr. Baltimore is one of the world’s most influential molecular biologists,” said AACR President Carlos L. Arteaga, MD. “His groundbreaking discoveries have had a profound influence on cancer research. His discovery of reverse transcriptase enabled the development of molecular biology techniques that are used by cancer researchers on a daily basis. He played a leading role in establishing the field of recombinant DNA research, which has been pivotal for the study and understanding of cancer biology, and in advancing biotechnology and its many applications to human disease. The AACR is proud to honor his extraordinary accomplishments with the Weinstein Distinguished Lectureship.”
“Dr. Baltimore is an esteemed leader in the field of molecular biology,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “He has pioneered scientific breakthroughs that have had far-reaching impact across the spectrum of biomedical research, including cancer research. In addition to these stellar scientific contributions, which have earned him the Nobel Prize, Dr. Baltimore has been a longtime advocate for federal investment in biomedical research. He is greatly deserving of this award.”
“I am highly honored to be asked to deliver the AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship,” Baltimore said. “Forty-five years ago, while I was immersed in studying viruses, I — as well as Howard Temin — discovered that cancer-inducing viruses use the unique strategy of copying their RNA genome in DNA, the stuff of heredity. I am proud to have played a part in beginning the conquest of this awful disease.”
Throughout his career, Baltimore has made landmark scientific discoveries in the field of molecular biology. His Nobel Prize-winning work on reverse transcriptase, which is essential for the reproduction of retroviruses such as HIV and the target of numerous antiretroviral drugs, was conducted early in his career. He went on to pioneer the use of recombinant DNA technology, which members of his laboratory used to advance understanding of the immune system, including discovering the transcription factor NF-κB and the recombination activating genes RAG-1 and RAG-2.
The research in his laboratory is currently focused on furthering knowledge of the development and function of the mammalian immune system and using viral vectors to carry new genes into immune cells to increase the range of pathogens effectively fought by the immune system and to make the immune system resist cancer growth more effectively.
Baltimore, who in 1996 was appointed head of the National Institutes of Health’s AIDS Vaccine Research Committee, has influenced U.S. public policies on such issues as AIDS and genetic engineering. He was an early advocate of federal AIDS research and co-chaired the National Academy of Sciences Committee on a National Strategy for AIDS in 1986. Baltimore currently co-directs the Joint Center for Translational Medicine, a joint effort between Caltech and the University of California, Los Angeles, which aims to facilitate the translation of basic science advances to the clinical arena.
Baltimore’s extensive collection of honors and accolades include the National Medal of Science, the AMA Scientific Achievement Award, and the Warren Alpert Foundation Scientific Prize from Harvard Medical School. He is also an elected member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences, as well as a foreign member of the Royal Society in the United Kingdom and the French Academy of Sciences.
Baltimore graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and received his doctorate from Rockefeller University in New York, where he also once served as president and professor of biology. He served on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for more than 30 years, including as founding director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Baltimore is a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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