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September 12, 2002

Gene regulation expert to receive Dickson prize

C. David Allis, known for his groundbreaking studies in gene regulation, will receive the 2002 Dickson Prize in Medicine during Science2002 — Synergy in Science, a three-day showcase of research Sept. 18-20 at Pitt. He will deliver the Dickson Prize lecture, "Translating the Histone Code: A Tale of Tails," at 8:45 a.m. Sept. 18, in Alumni Hall.

The University's Dickson Prize in Medicine recognizes individuals who have made significant, progressive contributions to the field of medicine. Established in 1969 by the estates of Joseph Z. Dickson and his wife, Agnes Fischer Dickson, the prize consists of a bronze medal and an award of $50,000. It is analogous to the Dickson Prize in Science, which is awarded each year by Carnegie Mellon University.

Allis's research seeks to elucidate how DNA is packaged in chromatin and how this packaging controls access to a cell's genetic information. He has found that when a gene is to be expressed (i.e., copied into messenger RNA), chromatin proteins called histones must be moved away from the gene to allow access by the cell's copying machinery. The histones act as "on/off" switches for the genes, and by adding or removing these switches, researchers hope to be able to control gene expression, a tool that could have a major impact in preventing or treating many diseases.

Allis became interested in studying chromatin during a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Rochester.

Following academic appointments at Baylor College of Medicine, Syracuse University and the University of Rochester, in 1998 he moved to the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville, where he is the Harry F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, professor of microbiology and a member of the Center for Cell Signaling.

Allis was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and received the 2001 Baxter Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 2

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