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Mulligan receives new award

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) announced Monday that Dr. Richard C. Mulligan has been named the first recipient of the ASBMB-Amgen Award. Dr. Mulligan is a professor of biology at MIT and a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

ASBMB officials explain that the new award was established with the generosity of Amgen, Inc., to recognize "significant achievement in the application of biochemistry and molecular biology to the understanding of disease." Nominees for the award must be within 15 years of receipt of their PhDs.

Dr. Mulligan, who received his PhD from Stanford University in 1980, is a leader in the development of new technologies for transferring genes into mammalian cells. Scientists use his specialized vectors (modified viruses capable of carrying tiny bits of foreign DNA) in clinical studies of gene therapy, in cancer research, and in laboratory experiments to unravel basic questions about human development.

Recently Dr. Mulligan and his associates identified a promising ingredient for cancer vaccines using a new viral vector that is more versatile and efficient than any of its predecessors. In animal studies, the novel vaccine candidate stimulated potent, long-lasting, and specific anti-tumor immunity.

The Mulligan laboratory also is using the new vector for ongoing studies of blood cell development. The ultimate goal of this work is to make gene therapy a more practical alternative for patients with life-threatening genetic diseases.

Dr. Daniel Vapnek, senior vice president of research at Amgen, Inc., said, "I have closely followed Dr. Mulligan's contributions to the development of retroviral vectors and their potential use in human gene transfer, and I am extremely pleased that he has been selected to be the first recipient of this award."

The ASBMB-Amgen award consists of a personal award of $5,000, an unrestricted research grant of $20,000, and a plaque. In addition, Dr. Mulligan was invited to deliver a plenary lecture during ASBMB's annual meeting in San Diego this week. His talk was titled "Retroviral-Mediated Gene Transfer: Basic and Practical Applications."

Dr. Mulligan received his undergraduate degree in biology from MIT in 1976. Before joining MIT and the Whitehead Institute as a faculty member, he did postdoctoral research at MIT, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts General Hospital. His previous honors and awards include the MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship in 1981, the Searle Scholars Award in 1983, and the 12th Rhoads Memorial Award in 1991. In 1992, he was co-recipient of the Science Council Teaching Prize at MIT.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 35).

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