October 4, 2011

Rockefeller University's Titia de Lange wins 2011 Vanderbilt Prize

The 2011 Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science is awarded to Titia de Lange, Ph.D., of Rockefeller University, whose research on telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes, has received international acclaim.

The prize, established by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2006, honors nationally and internationally known women scientists who have “a stellar record of research accomplishments” and who have contributed significantly to the mentorship of other women in science.

Dr. de Lange, Leon Hess Professor and head of the Laboratory for Cell Biology and Genetics at Rockefeller University, will receive the prize on Feb. 23, 2012, when she is scheduled to give a Vanderbilt Discovery Lecture.

“This is our sixth Vanderbilt Prize,” said Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research, senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, and interim chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt. “The continued support of this very innovative national prize, as well as the emergent quality and strength of the previous winners, communicates the explicit value Vanderbilt places on discovery research, mentoring and women scientists.”

Vanderbilt Prize winners receive a $25,000 award, visit Vanderbilt to meet with faculty and deliver a Discovery lecture, and serve as mentors to women who are pursuing graduate studies in the biomedical sciences at the School of Medicine. This year’s student scholar will be selected in late 2011. See related story on the scholar program, "Call For Nominations for the 2011 Vanderbilt Prize Scholar," at the left under "Announcements" in today's MyVUMC.

Dr. de Lange earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Amsterdam and the Netherlands Cancer Institute in 1985.

From 1985 to 1990 she was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Harold Varmus at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was one of the first to isolate the telomeres of human chromosomes.

Telomeres are highly specialized DNA-protein structures that cap the ends of linear chromosomes, protecting them from degradation. Impaired functioning of telomeres can lead to genomic instability, and so to cancer, as well as accelerate the aging process.

Since the late 1980s, de Lange has focused her efforts on learning how telomeres provide this protection. Among other research accomplishments, she identified a telomere-specific protein complex, which she named shelterin, and demonstrated its role in suppressing the DNA damage response and in regulating telomere stability.

In 1990, de Lange joined the faculty of Rockefeller University, where she also is an American Cancer Society Research Professor and director of the university’s Anderson Center for Cancer Research. Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate, and Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., president of Rockefeller University, nominated Dr. de Lange for the Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Science.

Among other awards, de Lange is the recipient of the 2011 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science, the 2010 Clowes Memorial Award from the American Association for Cancer Research, and the 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award.

She is an elected member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and she is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

For a list of previous winners and the 2012 nomination form, go to https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/dean and click on “Vanderbilt Prize.”