March of Dimes Awards $250,000 Prize to Scientist Who Discovered How to Reprogram Human Cells

New Method Bypasses Need to Obtain Stem Cells From Embryos

Vancouver, British Columbia | Monday, May 3, 2010

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The scientist who reprogrammed adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells has been chosen to receive the 2010 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.

Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, San Francisco, and Kyoto University, Japan, was honored with the 2010 March of Dimes Prize for his pioneering work that has fundamentally altered the field of developmental biology and will aid research into the prevention of birth defects.

Dr. Yamanaka developed induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells, which are embryonic-like stem cells capable of developing into any kind of cell. His method eliminates the need to obtain stem cells from human embryos, a process that results in the destruction of the embryo.

“Dr. Yamanaka’s remarkable achievement makes it possible to have virtually an unlimited number of pluripotent stem cells that have the potential to be used to correct or repair birth defects in children,” said Michael Katz, MD, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes.

The 2010 March of Dimes Prize was presented today to Dr. Yamanaka at a gala black-tie dinner and ceremony held at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. Dr. Yamanaka also delivered the Fifteenth Annual March of Dimes Prize Lecture at the Vancouver Convention Centre during the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

In its 15-year history, the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology has been the crowning glory of a distinguished research career or a stepping stone on the path toward future honors for researchers. In fact, five past March of Dimes Prize recipients have gone on to win a Nobel Prize®.

Individuals who receive the March of Dimes Prize are leaders in the field of developmental biology. Their pioneering research offers hope for preventions and treatments for some of the most serious birth defects and other human diseases.

Sydney Brenner, DPhil, FRS, who received the March of Dimes Prize in 2002, and H. Robert Horvitz, PhD, who was awarded the prize in 2000, shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.

Sir Martin J. Evans, PhD. DSc, FRS, who received the March of Dimes Prize in 1999, and Mario R. Capecchi, PhD, and Oliver Smithies, DPhil, FRS, who were the 2005 co-recipients, shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.

The March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology has been awarded annually since 1996 to investigators whose research has profoundly advanced the science that underlies the understanding of birth defects. The March of Dimes Foundation created the Prize as a tribute to Dr. Jonas Salk shortly before his death in 1995. Dr. Salk received Foundation support for his work to create a polio vaccine. The prize is a cash award of $250,000 and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime, in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who founded the March of Dimes.

Dr. Yamanaka is the L.K. Whittier Foundation Investigator in Stem Cell Biology, the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He also is the Director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application and professor at the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at the Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, both at Kyoto University in Japan.

1st photo caption: The March of Dimes awarded Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, (third from left) its 2010 Prize in Developmental Biology at a gala event. Pictured (left to right) are CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel, member of the March of Dimes national Honorary Board of Trustees who hosted the ceremony, Michael Katz, MD, March of Dimes senior vice president for research, Dr. Yamanaka and Jennifer L. Howse, president March of Dimes. (Photo by David Ellingsen)

2nd photo caption: Elizabeth Roosevelt Johnston, a March of Dimes National Trustee, (far right) congratulates Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, on receiving the 2010 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology as Jennifer L. Howse, president March of Dimes looks on. (Photo by David Ellingsen)

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.

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