The award is presented annually to scientists for recent discoveries of particular originality and importance to basic medical research. Steitz was chosen for “her work in establishing a subfield of molecular biology concerning small ribonucleoproteins, also called snRNPs or “snurps,” and for her many subsequent discoveries that have gained her international recognition as a leader in her field.”
SnRNPs are small particles found in cells that are necessary for converting raw genetic information into active proteins. These particles act to produce messenger molecules that can be read directly into proteins. They are therefore critical for carrying out all of the body’s most basic biological processes, such as developing the immune system or the brain.
Steitz received the medal and a $10,000 prize at a presentation ceremony at Brandeis University on April 5.
“I am truly honored to receive this award,” said Steitz, who is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “It represents an acknowledgement of an exploding area of research that is probing the fundamental workings of all cells. This field has and will continue to provide new insights into the basis and therefore the treatment of genetic diseases.”
Steitz earned a B.S. from Antioch College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has won many prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Weizmann Women and Science Award, the Novartis Drew Award in Biomedical Research and most recently the UNESCO-L’Oreal Women in Science Award.