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National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 22, 2003


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NICHD Honors Outstanding Scientists During 40th Anniversary Year

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has selected 15 outstanding scientists for its Hall of Honor, which recognizes scientists supported by the Institute for exceptional contributions to advancing knowledge and improving maternal and child health.

The scientists are being honored today in a ceremony on the NIH campus that commemorates the Institute's 40th anniversary. After the ceremony, the scientists' portraits and brief descriptions of their research contributions will hang in the halls of the Institute.

"The NICHD Hall of Honor scientists exemplify the scientific achievement for which they are honored, as well as the common humanity that motivates us all to serve others," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director, NICHD. "We honor them for who they are, as much as for what they have done."

Listed below are the 15 Hall of Honor scientists and their award citations:

  • Gary Becker, Ph.D., University of Chicago
    For pioneering the application of microeconomic theory and analysis to marriage, fertility, education, and the formation of human capital

  • Ralph Brinster, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
    For discovering a method for in vitro culture of animal embryos that opened new possibilities in reproductive biology, and pioneering the use of new techniques in developmental biology and molecular genetics to produce transgenic animals, a key technology in advancing the genetic revolution

  • Robert E. Cooke, M.D., Johns Hopkins University
    For visionary scientific and societal contributions to benefit children, particularly those with special needs, including conceptualization of a new National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health, and leading the effort that resulted in its establishment by the President and Congress

  • Delbert Fisher, M.D., University of California, Los Angeles
    For conceptualizing the possibility of newborn screening for congenital hypothyroidism, developing the microassay methods that made this screening feasible, and effectively fostering its implementation on a national scale, resulting in the elimination of mental retardation due to this disorder

  • William Gahl, M.D., Intramural Research Program, NICHD
    For identifying a potential pharmacologic treatment for cystinosis, demonstrating its effectiveness, and bringing it to market as an orphan drug, to completely prevent manifestations of this rare genetic inborn error of metabolism

  • Roger Guillemin, M.D., Ph.D., Salk Institute
    For discovery of hypothalamic releasing factors for pituitary hormones, thereby demonstrating the mechanism of control for this master gland, that led to effective treatments for infertility, precocious puberty, and cancer

  • Edward B. Lewis, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
    For discovering homeotic genes [Hox genes], establishing that their order on the chromosome corresponds to their expression along the body axis, and theorizing how these genes establish body pattern, thus providing important insight into the control of embryonic development and the causes of structural birth defects

  • Maria New, M.D., Cornell University
    For demonstrating the broad spectrum of disorders caused by variants of the gene for congenital adrenal hyperplasia, documenting its status as the most prevalent single gene disorder, and developing effective treatments for its variant forms, including the first prenatal treatment to prevent manifestations of a genetic disorder

  • Craig Ramey, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, University of Alabama, Georgetown University
    For leading the research effort to document the effectiveness of environmental enrichment as an early intervention to improve outcomes for children at high risk for developmental and intellectual disabilities due to sociocultural circumstances

  • John B. Robbins, M.D., Intramural Research Laboratory, NICHD
    For conceptualizing, developing, testing, and bringing into universal use, a conjugate vaccine to prevent meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b, eliminating this condition as the leading cause of acquired mental retardation in the United States, and ending the scourge of this disease for children everywhere

  • Rachel Schneerson, M.D., Intramural Research Laboratory, NICHD
    For conceptualizing, developing, testing, and bringing into universal use, a conjugate vaccine to prevent meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b, eliminating this condition as the leading cause of acquired mental retardation in the United States, and ending the scourge of this disease for children everywhere

  • Judith Vaitukaitis, M.D., Intramural Research Program, NICHD
    For discovery of the beta subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin (bHCG) and identifying it as the earliest marker of pregnancy, leading to its development as the standard pregnancy test and a monitor for response to cancer treatment

  • Stephen T. Warren, Ph.D., Emory University
    For identification of Triplet Repeat Expansion as the cause of Fragile X syndrome and as an entirely new inheritance mechanism of genetic disease

  • Eric Wieschaus, Ph.D., Princeton University
    For identifying the genes controlling embryonic development, establishing that they can be classified into specific functional groups, and showing that these genes are conserved across animal species, thus providing insight into the causes of human structural birth defects

  • Ryuzo Yanagimachi, Ph.D., University of Hawaii
    For basic discoveries in reproductive biology that provided the means to reliably produce genetically identical animals, and that provided the foundation for human infertility treatment

Since its creation by Congress in 1962, NICHD's mission has encompassed research across the life span. This includes development before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. NICHD research over the past forty years has led to advances enabling millions of people in this country and around the world to lead healthier lives. For example:

  • Infant mortality has dropped by 70 percent, partly due to NICHD research that has led to new ways to treat and prevent respiratory distress syndrome, manage premature infants, and reduce the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • The incidence of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis, once the leading cause of acquired mental retardation, has dropped from more than 20,000 children under age five per year in 1988 to fewer than 100 cases per year today due to NICHD research leading to a vaccine
  • Transmission of HIV from infected mother to infant has dropped from 25 percent to 2 percent as a result of NICHD's efforts in collaboration with other agencies and organizations
  • Social, physical, and behavioral programs and treatments are now available for people with mental retardation and physical disabilities. New methods of teaching, managing behavior, and increasing mobility developed by NICHD research have diminished barriers for people with disabilities.

The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical research arm of the federal government. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. NICHD publications, as well as information about the Institute, are available from the NICHD Web site, http://www.nichd.nih.gov, or from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail NICHDInformationResourceCenter@mail.nih.gov.


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