Biotechnology Study Center Honors J. Craig Venter, Leonard Bell, and Steven Shak

April 01, 2001

On Wednesday, April 4, the Biotechnology Study Center of NYU School of Medicine will honor three leaders in the biotechnology industry who have made outstanding contributions to the understanding of basic biology and the treatment of human disease. The awards will be given to J. Craig Venter, president of Celera Genomics Corp, the biotech company that sequenced the human genome; Leonard Bell, president of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a company engaged in finding novel ways to cure inflammatory and heart disease; and Steven Shak, former Genentech scientist and co-founder of Genomic Health Inc., a newly formed company dedicated to the ethical applications of genomic technologies.

Robert M. Glickman, Dean of NYU School of Medicine, will open the ceremony, the first annual awards presentation to be held by the Center. Each honoree also will receive a lithograph of Frank Stella's work signed by the artist, who is a Fellow of the Center.

The newly formed Biotechnology Study Center, the first of its kind nationwide, brings together an extraordinary group of biomedical scientists, social scientists, legal experts, and business leaders, who are among the top movers and shakers in their fields. "The Center is a university-based think tank for biotechnology, rather than a trade group that actively promotes industry," says Gerald Weissmann, Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, and Director of the Division of Rheumatology. "We study biotechnology and analyze its ethics and its impact on society. We want to understand how the broader culture shapes, and is shaped by, biotechnology, among many other matters."

Weissmann, and Nobel laureates Sir John Vane of the William Harvey Research Institute, and Bengt Samuelsson of the Karolinska Institute, among others, established the Center last year. In addition to its other activities, the Center serves as an academic center for the study of biotechnology as a discipline. It also provides an unusually rich resource for advice and expertise in the burgeoning field of biotechnology. Several meetings have already been held where distinguished scholars and scientists discussed a broad range of issues, from intellectual property rights in the university and industry to the ethics of Iceland's population genome study.

The Center also is analyzing how biotechnology can have an impact on public health, and it is already pursuing innovative initiatives that could bring desperately needed experimental drugs into the clinic for the benefit of underdeveloped countries and underserved areas of developed countries.
A list of the Center's Fellows can be obtained by calling the Public Affairs Office at NYU School of Medicine. The awards ceremony begins 4 p.m., April 4, in Farkas Auditorium at NYU School of Medicine.

The Award Recipients
Leonard Bell, MD, is president and chief executive officer of Alexion Inc., which is developing a class of anti-inflammatory compounds called complement inhibitors. The company, established in 1992 in New Haven, is dedicated to developing effective and safe treatments for human diseases for which treatment options are either non-existent or inadequate. Previously, Bell was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, and co-director of Yale's vascular biology program. He received his undergraduate degree from Brown University and his MD degree from Yale.

Steven Shak, MD, is a co-founder of Genomic Health Inc., and previously served as senior director and staff clinical scientist at Genentech, Inc., where he discovered Pulmozyme®, a mucus-dissolving enzyme used for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. At Genentech, he initiated the cancer clinical trials of a novel antiangiogenesis agent, anti-VEGF, and led the clinical team that gained approval for Herceptin®, a treatment for metastatic breast cancer. He received his BA degree from Amherst College, clinical training at Bellevue Hospital in New York, and his MD degree from NYU School of Medicine.

J. Craig Venter, PhD, is president and chief scientific officer of Celera Genomics Corp. and founder of The Institute of Genomic Research (TIGR), a not-for-profit genomics research institution. Celera was formed only three years ago for the purpose of generating genomic information to accelerate advances in the way diseases are diagnosed and treated. Last June, Celera announced that it had completed the first assembly of the human genome, and in February its paper on the sequencing of the genome was published in Science. Previously, Venter was a section chief in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the NIH. In 1990, he developed expressed sequence tags to identify and facilitate gene discovery. He received his PhD in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego.

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

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