July 28, 2003
MEDIA CONTACT: Joanna Downer
Greider Named Director of Molecular Biology at Hopkins
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After an exhaustive national search, Carol W. Greider, Ph.D., a Johns Hopkins faculty member since 1997 and internationally known for her work on telomerase, has been named the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The appointment is effective Aug. 1, 2003.
Greider has served as interim director of the department since 2002. She was elected this year to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also received the National Academy's Richard Lounsbery Award in April.
In their letter recommending Greider for the post, the search committee, headed by Richard Huganir, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, and Martin Abeloff, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, noted her strengths in leadership, research and teaching, a sentiment echoed by colleagues at Hopkins.
"It's so wonderful to choose among highly qualified candidates and to select one from among your own ranks," says Edward D. Miller, M.D., dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "With her experience and with the full support of the institution, Carol is going to be a wonderful addition to Hopkins leadership and an advocate for basic research. We're just so pleased."
Greider's career has focused on investigating basic biological questions, but the answers have turned out to have dramatic implications for disease research. As a University of California at Berkeley graduate student studying how a single-celled, pond-dwelling critter copied its chromosomes, Greider discovered the enzyme, called telomerase, that rebuilds chromosomes' ends. Now, 19 years later, telomerase is recognized as a major player in cancers and is a possible target for treating them.
"When you're pursuing answers to basic biological questions -- how DNA is copied, how cells divide -- you aren't really expecting a disease-related application, you're trying to satisfy your curiosity," says Greider. "But such research usually does reach a point with implications for health and disease and are absolutely vital to the process of advancing knowledge and medicine."
Greider's plans for the department's future include hiring three new faculty. She herself was part of the last group of three added to the department.
"We have a diverse faculty with expertise in a wide range of areas, so we'll be looking for talented, thoughtful people engaged in fundamental work applicable to all organisms, rather than filling out any particular fields," says Greider. "We're intimately connected with the school's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, and so we want to bring together people studying similar problems through different approaches."
The department's current faculty -- 13 primary and 21 with joint appointments in molecular biology and genetics -- are working in yeast, fruit flies, worms, human cells, mice and rats on projects ranging from development, olfaction (smell) and vision to fundamental molecular processes inside cells.
Greider holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a doctorate in molecular biology from UC Berkeley. Her postgraduate training began in 1988 as a fellow at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, where she progressed to the rank of investigator before joining Hopkins in 1997 as an associate professor in the department of molecular biology and genetics. She was promoted to full professor in 1999 and holds a joint appointment in the department of oncology.
Greider has served on numerous national committees, including the National Bioethics Advisory Committee during the Clinton Administration, and has received many prestigious awards in recognition of her past and continuing contributions to science, including the Gairdner Foundation Award and the Rosenstiel Award. She was also a Pew Biomedical Scholar.
Molecular biologist Daniel Nathans, Ph.D., for whom Greider's professorship is named, was a long-time Johns Hopkins professor of molecular biology and genetics and shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978 for using enzymes as biochemical "scissors" to cut DNA at precise, predictable places, an advance that revolutionized the study of genes and genetic material. Recipient of the National Medal of Science, Nathans died in November 1999.
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