February 2012

Yale's Elisabetta Ullu wins inaugural Alice and C.C. Wang Award


“I am deeply honored to have been chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Alice and C.C. Wang award and incredibly grateful to Alice and C.C. Wang for this invaluable gift to the field of molecular parasitology. The award brings to the spotlight the contributions that the study of human protozoan parasites, such as Trypanosoma brucei, have made and continue to make to further our understanding of eukaryotic biology. I am proud to share the honor of this award with all the wonderful collaborators who have worked by my side over the years.” – Elisabetta Ullu  

Elisabetta Ullu, professor of internal medicine and cell biology at the Yale University School of Medicine, has been named the winner of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s inaugural Alice and C.C. Wang award.

The award aims to recognize established investigators who are making seminal contributions to the field of molecular parasitology, focusing in particular on novel and significant discoveries of the biology of parasitic organisms. The award’s namesake, Ching Chung “C.C.” Wang, is a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, who has made key contributions to the understanding of the biology of many pathogenic protozoa.

Ullu received the award for her laboratory’s work with the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, which causes African sleeping sickness, to uncover a novel mechanism of gene silencing known as RNA interference, or RNAi. While working on RNA synthesis and processing pathways in T. brucei, Ullu hit upon the phenomenon of RNAi, in which small, noncoding RNA molecules rather than proteins regulate gene expression.

Ullu’s discovery of RNAi “made a revolution in the ability to investigate the function of genes in parasites,” said Shulamit Michaeli from the Israel Science Foundation in supporting her nomination. The importance of RNAi as a biological phenomenon was cemented in 2006, when the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Andrew Fire and Craig Mello for describing the process in roundworm nematodes.





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Ullu should have received the 2006 Nobel Prize together with Fire and Mello. They made the discover around the same time.



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