University of Pittsburgh
April 26, 2004

Pitt Alumnus Shares $500,000 Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research

Albany Medical Center Prize is largest medical prize in the United States and second worldwide only to the Nobel Prize
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PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh Alumnus Herbert W. Boyer, cofounder of Genentech and professor emeritus of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, will share the 2004 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research with Stanley Cohen of Stanford University for their pioneering work in genetic engineering. The $500,000 award is the largest prize in medicine in the United States and second worldwide only to the $1.4 million Nobel Prize.

Boyer and Cohen, Distinguished Professor of Genetics and professor of medicine at Stanford University, are being recognized for the development of recombinant DNA technology, or gene cloning, which involves the transfer of genes from one organism to another. Prior to their collaboration, there was no way to isolate an individual gene from cells. Their research has served as the foundation for genetic engineering and the creation of the biotechnology industry.

Boyer earned the Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in biological sciences from Pitt's Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1960 and 1963, respectively, after receiving the Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. In 2000, he and his wife gave a $1.5 million gift to establish the Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology in Pitt's Department of Biological Sciences.

"It is clearly no exaggeration to say that genetic engineering, one of the most sweeping scientific innovations of the 20th century, was brought about largely through the efforts of University of Pittsburgh Alumnus Herbert Boyer," said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "It is both tremendously exciting and most fitting that he has been recognized by such a prestigious award. Not only are we enormously proud to count him as a highly distinguished member of the Pitt family, we are inspired by the impact of

his life's work—discoveries that have not only changed, but dramatically

improved, the human condition."

Prior to Boyer and Cohen's research, scientists believed that the DNA of organisms could survive only within species that were closely related. Boyer and Cohen discovered that animal cell genes could be cloned and become functional in bacteria.

In 2000, Pitt honored Boyer with the degree of Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa. Boyer and Cohen were awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1980 and the Lemelson-MIT Prize in 1996. Boyer has won the Medal of Technology and the National Medal of Science, and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 1976, Boyer cofounded one of the world's first biotechnology companies, Genentech, which uses recombinant DNA technology to produce commercial pharmaceutical products. Two years later, Genentech synthesized human insulin, which has enhanced the lives of millions of diabetics. In 1985, Genentech received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the growth hormone protropin, which became the first recombinant pharmaceutical product to be manufactured and marketed by a biotechnology company. Genentech has recently released the cancer drug Avastin.

The Albany Medical Center Prize award was established in November 2000 with a $50 million gift to Albany Medical Center from Albany Law School graduate and philanthropist Morris Silverman. This is the fourth year the award has been given.