CUHK hosts The Shaw Prize Lecture by Shaw Laureates in Life Science and Medicine 2016
Prof. Adrian Bird and Prof. Huda Zoghbi, Shaw Laureates in Life Science and Medicine 2016, delivered a lecture at Shaw College of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) recently. Professor Bird spoke on ‘From DNA Methylation to Brain Function’ and Professor Zoghbi on ‘Rett Syndrome: From the Clinic to Genomes, Epigenomes, and Neural Circuits.’ The lecture attracted over 400 people, including staff and students from CUHK and local universities, professionals in the field, as well as secondary school teachers and students.
The Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine 2016 was awarded to Prof. Adrian Bird, Buchanan Professor of Genetics, Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK, and Professor Huda Zoghbi, Professor of Pediatrics & Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, US, for their discovery of the genes and the encoded proteins that recognise one chemical modification of the DNA of chromosomes that influences gene control as the basis of Rett syndrome. Rett syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects approximately one in 10,000 girls. When the disease takes hold, they become withdrawn, regress in their mental development, exhibit compulsive behavior such as wringing of the hands, and eventually lose all purposeful use of the hands.
In the 1990s, Professor Bird uncovered chromosome-binding proteins that recognise the methylC to switch off gene function. One of these proteins was MeCP2. Professor Zoghbi found that mutations in MeCP2 are the primary cause of Rett syndrome. Both professors and their teams independently produced a genetic animal-mouse-model of the disease. Professor Zoghbi showed that some of the learning and memory symptoms could be treated with a form of deep brain stimulation that is used on patients with Parkinson’s disease. In dramatic contrast to the irreversible damage associated with most neurologic disorders, Professor Bird’s team showed that the animal model of Rett Syndrome could be restored to normal by reintroducing the active gene that codes for the missing methylC binding protein. This discovery suggests a path to treatment of certain neurologic disorders using the emerging technology of gene editing. These highly complementary studies show, once again, the power of basic science to uncover the fundamental basis of human development and disease.
Biography of Prof. Adrian Bird
Prof. Adrian Bird was born in 1947 in Wolverhampton, UK and is currently the Buchanan Professor of Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, UK. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Sussex in 1970 and his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Edinburgh in 1972. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Yale and University of Zurich (1972–1975). He joined the MRC Mammalian Genome Unit (1975–1986) and then moved to Vienna, where he served as a Senior Scientist in the Research Institute for Molecular Pathology (1987–1990). He has held the Buchanan Chair of Genetics at the University of Edinburgh since 1990. He helped create the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology in Edinburgh and became its Director (1999–2011). Subsequently, he served as a Governor (2000–2010) of the Wellcome Trust including a term as Deputy Chairman (2007–2010). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and Edinburgh and the Academy of Medical Sciences, UK.
Biography of Prof. Huda Zoghbi
Prof. Huda Zoghbi was born in 1954 in Beirut, Lebanon and is currently Professor of Pediatrics & Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, Director of Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children’s Hospital and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon in 1975 and her MD from Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee, USA in 1979. She was a medical resident of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital (1979–1982) and then a Postdoctoral Fellow at Baylor College of Medicine (1982–1988). From 1988, she was successively Assistant Professor (1988–1991), Associate Professor (1991–1994) and Professor (1994–) in the Department of Pediatrics of Baylor College of Medicine. She has been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, USA.
About The Shaw Prize
The Shaw Prize is an international award to honour individuals who are currently active in their respective fields and have recently achieved distinguished and significant advances, or have made outstanding contributions in academic and scientific research or applications, or have achieved excellence in other domains. The award is dedicated to furthering societal progress, enhancing the quality of life, and enriching humanity’s spiritual civilization.
The Shaw Prize was established under the auspices of Sir Run Run Shaw in November 2002. It consists of three annual awards: the Prize in Astronomy, the Prize in Life Science and Medicine, and the Prize in Mathematical Sciences.