L'Oreal-UNESCO awards honor UCSF biologist for pioneering research in DNA synthesis

December 06, 2007

New York, NY, December 6, 2007 - For her pioneering work with telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, and their relation to cell aging and disease, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn was presented the prestigious L'ORÉAL -UNESCO For Women in Science Award. An expert in the area of telomere and telomerase research, Dr. Blackburn, Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, has worked to create a better understanding of stress as a cause leading to cell aging and the diseases of old age, including cancer.

Selected as the North American Laureate for her discovery of the ribonucleoprotein enzyme telomerase, Dr. Blackburn's research examines the function of the enzyme as it relates to cell aging and mutations that can cause cancer. During DNA synthesis, telomerase restores the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes, called telomeres, and Dr. Blackburn's research has found that mutant variations of telomerase impair cell division, which can contribute to aging and cancer.

"I would like to see our research be useful in furthering human well-being," said Dr. Blackburn. "Perhaps it will be useful in understanding what happens to our cells' telomere maintenance that can cause common diseases to progress. Perhaps this understanding will prompt and guide interventions to try to improve health."

Dr. Blackburn is one of five distinguished women researchers selected as Laureates of the 10th annual LOREAL-UNESCO Awards For Women in Science. Along with Dr. Blackburn, the other Laureates include: Dr. Blackburn has conducted scientific research at the University of California, San Francisco since 1990, where she served as chair of the Department of Molecular Biology from 1993-1999. She earned her B.Sc. (1970) and M.Sc. (1972) degrees from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and her Ph.D. (1975) from the University of Cambridge in England. She completed her postdoctoral work in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Yale.

"Today, many more young women enter studies of science and, in biological sciences, complete postdoctoral research about as frequently as men, so that is good," said Dr. Blackburn. "What has not changed is that the applications by women for the best jobs in science are not proportionately high, and women are grossly underrepresented in such jobs, especially as one goes up the ranks."

The L'ORÉAL -UNESCO For Women in Science Awards is the the only program of its kind to honor eminent women scientists at the international level. The five Laureates are selected by a jury of 18 distinguished international scientists presided over by Professor Gunter Blobel, Nobel Prize winner in Medicine 1999, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Professor and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, at Rockefeller University.

Ten years of advances in science

The result of a unique partnership, the L'ORÉAL-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards aim to recognize the contributions of outstanding women researchers to scientific progress and encourage the participation of women in scientific research. The Laureates serve as role models for future generations, encouraging young women around the world to follow in their footsteps.

Now in its 10th year, the L'ORÉAL -UNESCO For Women in Science program has recognized a total of 52 women from 26 countries whose exemplary careers in science have opened up new and sometimes revolutionary ways of improving human well-being. For more information about the L'ORÉAL-UNESCO partnership please visit: www.forwomeninscience.com.

The L'ORÉAL Corporate Foundation, created in 2007, is committed to three areas of action: encouraging education, fostering scientific research, and hepling those in underserved communities. The Foundation, which presently regroups a number of major existing corporate philanthropy initiatives including the L'ORÉAL-UNESCO Awards For Women in Science, will strengthen these actions and ensure their continuity, as well as develop new programs in the coming years.

L'Oréal is a worldwide leader in the cosmetics industry, developing innovative products to meet the diverse needs of customers in 130 countries worldwide. Nearly 3,000 people work in the Group's 14 research centers, located in France, Asia and America. Their findings are responsible for the registration of hundreds of patents annually. Women represent 55% of the research workforce - a percentage unmatched anywhere else in the industry (www.loreal.com).


Since its creation in 1945, UNESCO has pursued the mission of promoting science - the "S" in its acronym - for peace. Today, UNESCO reinforces international co-operation in the basic sciences among its 192 Member States and promotes ethical norms in science. The Organisation has been also dedicated to eliminating all forms of discrimination and promoting equality between men and women. As well as developing educational programs in science particularly designed for girls, UNESCO has established a network of academic chairs creating links between women in science around the world (www.unesco.org/science/women).

For more information or to arrange interviews with Laureates, please contact:

Vijay Jesrani
Tel.: +1-212-704-8297
Mob: +1-412-335-0976

Rebecca Caruso
Tel: +1-212-984-4894
Mob: +1-201-965-3837

Edelman Public Relations

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