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UC Berkeley's Gerald Rubin shares AAAS prize with Celera's Craig Venter for sequencing genome of the fruit fly
20 February 2001

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations

Berkeley - Gerald M. Rubin, professor of genetics in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been awarded the Newcomb Cleveland Prize for 2000 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for a review paper he published last year on the sequencing of the fruit fly genome. He shares the prize with about 100 co-authors, including Craig Venter, head of Celera Genomics Corp.

The paper, one of three articles about the fruit fly genome in the March 24, 2000, issue of Science, was an important milestone on the road to sequencing the entire human genome. A large portion of the human genome was published last week in Science and Nature magazines.

Rubin, who since the first of last year has split his time between UC Berkeley and Chevy Chase, Md., where he serves as vice president for biomedical research for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, received the prize Feb. 17 during the annual AAAS meeting. Also present to receive the award were Susan E. Celniker, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and co-director of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project (BDGP) Sequencing Center at LBNL, and Mark D. Adams of Celera.

In selecting the paper, the AAAS said in a statement that, "This collaborative effort by academic and industry researchers was considered by our committee to represent a landmark event in the effort to understand the organization of the hereditary material at the finest structural level."

Science also highlighted the sequencing of the fruit fly genome as a "Breakthrough of the Year" in its Dec. 22, 2000, issue.

The feat, a collaboration between Celera and the BDGP, was achieved in record time with new techniques pioneered by Celera. Rubin is director of the BDGP, which is based at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The prize, first given in 1923 and the organization's oldest, recognizes an outstanding paper published in Science between June 1, 1999, and May 31, 2000. Rubin's research group will split the $5,000 prize with Venter's group, and each group will receive a commemorative bronze medal.

Rubin, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UC Berkeley since 1987 and a faculty member in the College of Letters & Science, won the prize once before for a 1982 paper on a new technique to transfer genes into the germ line of fruit flies.

Rubin, 50, received his bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971 and earned his PhD in molecular biology from the University of Cambridge in England in 1974. He did postdoctoral work at the Stanford University School of Medicine before joining Harvard Medical School in 1977 as an assistant professor of biological chemistry.

In 1980, he joined the Carnegie Institution of Washington as a staff member in the department of embryology, and three years later he moved to the faculty of UC Berkeley. Rubin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize was established in 1923 with funds donated by Newcomb Cleveland of New York City and was originally called the AAAS Thousand Dollar Prize. Now known as the AAAS-Newcomb Cleveland Prize, its value has been raised to $5,000.