The 12th annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences has been awarded to Brandeis professors Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey Hall and their colleague Michael Young of Rockefeller University for the discovery of the molecular mechanisms governing circadian rhythms.
"The molecular network discovered by these researchers imparts cyclic behavior to many biological processes including sleep and wakefulness, metabolism and even the response to drugs," said Professor Gnter Blobel, chairman of the awards jury for the Wiley Prize and a 1999 Nobel Prize winner.
Their research could ultimately lead to the development of drugs to treat sleep disorders, physical and mental illness, and even jet lag.
Five previous Wiley Prize winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in either physiology or medicine.
Rosbash and Hall spent more than three decades at Brandeis collaboratively researching circadian rhythms, the biological clock which governs functions such as sleep and wakefulness, metabolism and hormone levels in organisms as simple as fruit flies and as complex as humans.
"We were incredibly fortunate to have advanced this problem in the remarkable way things have turned out," says Rosbash. "Jeff and I, as well as Mike Young at Rockefeller, began these studies in the fruit fly with no certainty in my case, no expectation that the fly clockworks would be essentially identical in humans. So our work not only turned out to be interesting but also potentially important. How lucky can three guys get?"
Their research uses the fruit fly Drosophila, a model organism valued for almost a century because of its relative genetic simplicity and its wide range of behaviors. At the molecular level, circadian rhythms use the same genes and are regulated in much the same way in all animals, including humans. Rosbash and Hall cloned the first Drosophila circadian clock gene in 1984.
"The discoveries they made in ter
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