Twenty years after the first identification of the BRCA1 gene, the University of Pennsylvania's Basser Research Center for BRCA will honor the geneticist credited with its founding with the second annual Basser Global Prize. The award will go to human genetics researcher and expert Mary-Claire King, PhD, American Cancer Society Research Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the University of Washington. King has been a pioneer in the development of experimental and bioinformatics genomics tools to study common, complex human diseases and health conditions.
The Basser Global Prize provides $200,000 in unrestricted support of the winner's innovative BRCA1/2 related research efforts. As part of the award, King will give the keynote address at the annual Basser Research Center for BRCA Symposium scheduled for May 11-12, 2015, at which time she will receive the Basser Trophy and a personal $10,000 cash prize.
"We're very excited to honor Dr. King's accomplishments in BRCA-related research, particularly as this year marks twenty years since the initial cloning of the BRCA1 gene," said Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Research Center and the Basser Professor of Medicine in Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "The identification of BRCA1 was the first critical step in work to improve outcomes for individuals with inherited susceptibility to breast cancer. Supporting research projects that are similarly devoted to the prevention and treatment of BRCA-related cancers is a primary mission of the Basser Center."
In 1990, Mary-Claire King demonstrated that a single gene on chromosome 17q21 (which she named BRCA1) was responsible for breast and ovarian cancer in many families. Her discovery of BRCA1 revolutionized the study of numerous other common inherited diseases. Dr. King's current research focuses on identifying and characterizing critical genes - and their interaction with environmental influences - that play a role in the development of conditions such as breast and ovarian cancer, schizophrenia, and hearing loss.
In 2012, the Basser Center was established through a $25 million gift from Penn alumni Mindy and Jon Gray in memory of Mindy Gray's sister Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44. The Basser Global Prize, a marquee component of the center, was established by Shari Basser Potter and Leonard Potter to honor a visionary scientist who has conceptually advanced BRCA1/2 related research that has led to improvements in clinical care. Professor Alan Ashworth, FRS, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Cancer Research in London and leader of the Gene Function team in the ICR's Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, was named the inaugural recipient of the Basser Global Prize in 2013.
Earlier this year, Mindy and Jon Gray made an additional $5 million gift to launch the Basser External Research Grant Program, a unique funding program for high impact translational cancer research projects aimed at advancing the care of people living with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center will serve as steward of the $5 million grant to four research teams that demonstrate the potential for translation into clinical practice. The Basser Center also provides funding to Penn investigators whose efforts are making strides in BRCA related research. Recipients of the first Basser External Research Grant Program funding, and the third year of internal grant funding will be announced in the coming weeks.