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Medical Research Foundation Announces 2009 Award Winners

Scientists and leaders from the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, Oregon Health & Science University and the University of Oregon receive the MRF’s annual awards for scientific leadership and innovation

The Medical Research Foundation of Oregon has announced the recipients of its 2009 awards for scientific leadership and innovation in Oregon. The awards were presented Nov. 10 at an invitation-only reception at Portland's Governor Hotel.

The MRF presented its Mentor Award to David and Lynn Frohnmayer for their commitment to advancing knowledge of Fanconi anemia, for fostering collaboration between clinicians and basic researchers in the search for a cure and for providing support for families affected by the disease. In 1989 the Frohnmayers founded the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund (FARF), which has raised $25 million for research projects, scientific and educational symposia, physician recruitment, publications and other activities. Fanconi anemia is relatively rare, but studies of the disease initiated by FARF have shed significant light on several related diseases, including many of the cancers that afflict millions of people around the world. David Frohnmayer is president emeritus of the University of Oregon.

The Discovery Award was presented to J. Eric Gouaux, Ph.D., senior scientist at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Gouaux is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and a pioneer in the structural biology of membrane proteins. Dr. Gouaux studies the molecular mechanisms of communication between nerve cells, and his discoveries in neurotransmission have established him as one of the top investigators in his field. His research has important implications for understanding the mechanisms of drugs used for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological diseases.

The MRF presented the Richard T. Jones New Investigator Award to Joseph W. Thornton, Ph.D., associate professor at the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oregon. Dr. Thornton is recognized for showing exceptional promise early in his career in biomedical research. A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Investigator who has been called a "molecular archaeologist," Dr. Thornton resurrects ancient genes to determine how proteins that are key to reproduction, development and cancer have evolved over the millennia. He is known for combining computational approaches for reconstructing the history of gene sequence evolution with biochemical and molecular techniques for testing hypotheses about the structure and functions of genes. Dr. Thornton's research has contributed greatly to the scientific community's effort to explain evolutionary science in the debate over intelligent design.



Established in 1942, the MRF promotes medical research achievement in Oregon. In addition to its annual honors, it administers more than $1 million per year in research funding and early investigator grants that support the work of outstanding investigators at research institutions across the state. Such funding is increasingly necessary in today's climate. MRF grants help to sustain quality research programs, enabling Oregon researchers to compete more effectively for grants from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. In 1994, the MRF became an affiliate committee of the OHSU Foundation, retaining its own unique mission and purpose to support Oregon biomedical research. The Nov. 10 event was the 25th anniversary of the MRF Discovery Award.

The OHSU Foundation is a separate 501(c)(3) organization that exists to raise private philanthropic support for Oregon Health & Science University. The OHSU Foundation raises funds from individuals, corporations and organizations, and manages and invests those gifts in accordance with donors' wishes. 
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