Prize Recipients

2003 Recipient

Charles Weissmann
Imperial College School of Medicine, London

For purification and characterization of interferon alpha and cloning of the human interferon alpha gene and mass production of recombinant interferon alpha for cancer treatment and treatment of hepatitis C.

Professor Charles Weissmann, M.D., Ph.D. is Professor emeritus, at Scripps Florida Research Institute. Born October 14, 1931, Weissman received his
M.D. (1956) and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry (1961). He was assistant to Professor P. Karrer, U. of Zürich 1960-1961. Postdoctoral Fellow (1961-63), Instructor (1963-64), Assistant Professor (1964-65) and Associate Professor (1965-67)  at the NYU School of Medicine, Dept. of Biochemistry; Professor and Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology, U. of Zürich, 1967-99; Visiting Professor, MRC Prion Unit, London,1999-2005; Professor and Chairman, Dept. of Infectology, Scripps Florida Research Institute 2004-12.

His reseearch includes discovery that RNA replication occurs via a single-stranded complementary (minus strand) RNA. Stepwise synthesis of a nucleic acid to determine nucleotide sequences; inspired the DNA sequencing technique by F.Sanger (Sanger, Nobel Prize Lecture 2004). Site-directed mutagenesis in a biologically active nucleic acid for the purpose of reverse genetics of phage Qß; method extended to DNA to determine structure-function relationships in the promoter and splice sites of the ß-globin gene. First demonstration that Rous sarcoma virus RNA was synthesized by host DNA-dependent RNA polymerase. Demonstration that the 5’ and 3’ ends of AMV RNA are redundant. First demonstration of viral quasi-species, an important concept for the explanation of acquisition of drug resistance by viruses and prions. First generation of infectious virus particles in E.coli from a plasmid encoding the viral sequence. First cloning of the human IFN alpha genes and production of interferon in E.coli. First cloning of the gene for prion protein (PrP), demonstration that PrP knockout mice are resistant to prion disease and that PrP antibodies abrogate prions in infected cells. Development of a rapid cell-based assay for prions. Demonstration that prions are subject to Darwinian evolution.

Dr. Weissmann has received numerous awards and honors including:
Ruzicka Prize (Zürich, 1966); Marcel Benoist Prize, Bern (1970); Sir Hans Krebs Medaille (Budapest 1974); Honorary Member, American Society of Biological Chemistry (1979); Otto Warburg Prize (Innsbruck 1980); Member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (1980); Dr. H.P. Heineken Prize (Amsterdam 1982); Scheele Medal, Uppsala (1982); Foreign Member of the Royal Society (1983); Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985); Cancer Prize (Krebspreis) of the Schweizerische Krebsliga (1987); Jung-Preis für Medizin, Hamburg (1988); Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1989); Gabor Medal of the Royal Society (1993); Robert-Koch Medal (1995); Datta Lectureship Award of the FEBS (1996); Charles-Léopold Mayer Prize of the French Academy of Science (1996); Royal Society Glaxo Wellcome Prize (1996); Honorary Member, Dept. of Biochemistry, U. of Oxford (1997); August-Wilhelm-von-Hofmann-Denkmünze (Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, Wien 1997); Klaus-Joachim-Zülch-Preis (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 1997); Max Delbrück Medal (Berlin, 1997); Wilhelm-Exner-Medaille (Wien, 1997); Distinguished Service Award (Miami, 1998); Corresponding Member, Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1998); Ausländisches Mitglied des Orden pour le mérite (Bonn, 1998); Mendel Medal (Genetical Society, London, 1998); Extraordinary Member of The Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie d. Wissenschaften (Berlin, 1999); Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (Washington, 1999); Betty and David Koetser Award (Zürich, 2001); Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (London, 2001); Friedrich-Bauer-Prize for Medical Research (U. of Münich, 2001); Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (Harvard Medical School, Boston, 2004); Fifth Annual Dart/NYU Biotechnology award (April 2006); Great Cross of Merit with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany (2010). Hartwig Piepenbrock-DZNE Prize (Berlin, 2013); Ernst Jung-Medaille für Medizin in Gold (Hamburg, 2014).
Honorary Degrees: Doctor honoris causa, U. of Verona (1992), U. of Gent (1994), ETH Zürich (1998), U. of Zürich (2000), U. of St.Andrews (St.Andrews, 2000), Ecole Federal Polytechnique (Lausanne, 2001); NYU School of Medicine (2012)

Charles Weissmann