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Calif. biologist awarded $500K NY medical prize

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A California scientist whose discoveries related to cell biology have led to new treatments for blood cancer and other diseases will receive one of the richest prizes in medical and scientific research next month, officials at Albany Medical Center said Tuesday.

Alexander Varshavsky of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena will receive the $500,000 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research in a May 21 ceremony. Medical center officials said Varshavsky was chosen in recognition of the seminal discoveries he made on intracellular protein degradation.

The award has been given annually since 2001 to those who have altered the course of medical research. It was established by the late Morris "Marty" Silverman, a New York City businessman.

Over more than three decades, initially at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later at Caltech, Varshavsky's research team has made a broad range of discoveries and inventions in the field of molecular biology.

Varshavsky is best known for his discoveries related to cellular mechanisms that control such vital processes as cell growth and division, responses to stress and many other biological processes. His insights into what is known as the "ubiquitin system of intracellular protein degradation" have led to new drugs to treat multiple myeloma, lymphoma, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other degenerative diseases.

"To say he is one of the foremost researchers of our times is an understatement," said James Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center.

"It is very rare for one person to have made so many fundamental biological discoveries, which continue to the present day," said Sir Michael Berridge of the Babraham Institute, a foremost molecular signaling laboratory in Cambridge, England.

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