Victor Ambros awarded 2016 March of Dimes prize for co-discovery of MicroRNAs

Award honors leaders in the field of developmental biology

By Sarah Willey

UMass Medical School Communications

May 03, 2016
  BALTIMORE, MAY 2, 2016 -- Victor R. Ambros, PhD, holds the silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime presented to him at a black tie dinner and ceremony as  co-recipient of the 2016 March of Dimes and Richard B. Johnston, Jr., MD Prize in Developmental Biology. His co-recipient was Gary Ruvkun, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. Photo by Jason Turner
 

Victor R. Ambros, PhD, holds the silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime presented to him at a black tie dinner and ceremony as  co-recipient of the 2016 March of Dimes and Richard B. Johnston, Jr., MD Prize in Developmental Biology. His co-recipient was Gary Ruvkun, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University. Photo by Jason Turner

Victor R. Ambros, PhD, has been awarded the 21st annual March of Dimes Prize and Richard B. Johnston, Jr., MD Prize in Developmental Biology, an honor presented to investigators whose research has profoundly advanced the science that underlies the understanding of birth defects.

Dr. Ambros, the Silverman Chair in Natural Sciences and professor of molecular medicine at UMMS, is recognized for his co-discovery of a new world of genetic regulation by microRNAs, a class of tiny RNA molecules that inhibit translation or destabilize complementary mRNA targets. He accepted the March of Dimes award in Baltimore on May 2 along with his longtime collaborator Gary Ruvkun, PhD, professor of genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Working independently, and also at times together, Drs. Ambros and Ruvkun identified microRNAs, the smallest genes ever discovered, and elucidated how these small pieces of genetic material influence the production of proteins from particular messenger RNAs to which they are complementary. Their finding that microRNAs switch off the production of proteins from their target genes has changed our knowledge of various developmental and physiological processes. Ambros and Ruvkun published back-to-back studies in the journal Cell in 1993, describing their surprising findings.

“Victor's work has had a profound impact in the scientific community, most specifically within the field of microRNA,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medicine, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine. “His discoveries and ongoing work continues to influence the entire field of miRNA.”

Ambros has received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and he and Ruvkun were among six biomedical researchers who received a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their work in 2015.

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

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Victor Ambros awarded 2015 $3M Breakthrough Prize for co-discovery of microRNAs
Victor Ambros named co-recipient of 2014 Gruber Genetics Prize 
Victor Ambros receives Wolf Prize in Medicine 
Victor Ambros wins Keio Medical Science Prize 
Ambros receives Janssen Award for Biomedical Research 
Victor Ambros named to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

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