Friedmann Named 2015 Japan Prize Winner

Posted: January 30, 2015 at 1:42 am

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Newswise Theodore Friedmann, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine was named today one of three recipients of the 2015 Japan Prize, a prestigious international award honoring laureates whose original and outstanding achievements in science and technology have advanced the frontiers of knowledge and served the cause of peace and prosperity for mankind.

Friedmann is being recognized for his pioneering research and contributions to the development of gene therapy, a new field of medicine which in significant ways originated at UC San Diego. The sponsoring Japan Prize Foundation describes Friedmann as the father of gene therapy.

Sharing the 2015 Japan Prize in the field of medical science and medicinal science with Friedman is Alain Fischer, MD, PhD, director of immunology at the Necker Hospital in Paris, France. Fischer is credited with demonstrating the clinical efficacy of gene therapy by successfully treating children suffering from a severe genetic disorder that renders them extremely vulnerable to infections.

The third 2015 Japan Prize laureate is Yutaka Takahasi, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, who is being honored in the field of resources, energy and social infrastructure for his contributions to river basin management and reducing water-related disasters.

Each laureate will receive a certificate of recognition and commemorative gold medal. A cash award of approximately $416,600 will also be given to each prize field. Since its inception in 1985, 83 laureates from 13 countries have received the Japan Prize in a variety of fields and disciplines. Several have subsequently become Nobel Prize laureates as well.

In 1972, Friedmann, then a visiting scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, and Richard Roblin, also at the Salk Institute, published a foundational article in the field, a paper in the journal Science under the heading Gene therapy for human genetic disease?

The idea of gene therapy, which quickly captured the public imagination, was fueled by its appealingly straightforward approach and what Friedmann has described as its obvious correctness: Disarm a potentially pathogenic virus to make it benign. Stuff these viral particles with normal DNA. Then inject them into patients carrying abnormal genes where they will deliver their therapeutic cargoes inside the defective target cells. In theory, the good DNA replaces or corrects the abnormal function of the defective genes, rendering previously impaired cells whole, normal and healthy. End of disease.

Its not quite that simple, of course, something Friedmann and Roblin cautioned in their 1972 paper. Despite progress in the understanding of cellular functions, the roles of DNA and a series of experimental and clinical advances, the history of gene therapy has been marked by distinct highs and lows.

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Friedmann Named 2015 Japan Prize Winner

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