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News Release

For immediate use

Feb. 21, 2005 -- No. 65

California researcher to receive neuroscience
prize endowed by UNC scientist Perl

By LESLIE H. LANG
UNC School of Medicine

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has named Dr. Roger Tsien the recipient of the fifth annual Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize.

Tsien is professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California at San Diego.

The prize carries a $10,000 award and is given to recognize a seminal achievement in neuroscience.

Dr. Edward R. Perl, for whom the prize is named, is Sarah Graham Kenan professor of cell and molecular physiology at UNCís School of Medicine. His work has influenced modern pain research. Thirty years ago, he was the first to prove that a particular class of nerve cells (now called nociceptors) responds exclusively to stimuli perceived as painful; these nerve cells are now targets of intensive efforts to find drugs blocking their function.

"Dr. Tsien is the recipient of this yearís Perl Prize for developing molecular indicators that have revolutionized the optical monitoring of neurons," said Dr. William Snider, director of the UNC Neuroscience Center and head of the selection committee for the prize.

"He has developed a wide variety of tools for optically monitoring the structure and function of cells and molecules in the nervous system, including calcium indicator dyes, genetically coded protein biosensors and modifications to green fluorescent protein, GFP."

These tools have made it possible for scientists to visualize signaling processes in nerve cells both in cell culture and in the brains of living animals, Snider added.

Tsien, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is a member of the Institute of Medicine, which advises the nation on improving health, and the National Academy of Sciences.

His laboratoryís goal is to gain a better understanding of signaling inside individual living cells, in neuronal networks and in tumors, Tsien said. "We design, synthesize and use new molecules that detect or manipulate biochemical signals."

Dr. William L. Roper, dean of the School of Medicine, vice chancellor for medical affairs and chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System, will present the award on April 13 on the UNC campus. Tsien will give a lecture immediately following the ceremony.

Previous recipients are Dr. David Julius of the University of California at San Francisco; Dr. Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller University; co-recipients Dr. Linda Buck of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and Dr. Richard Axel of Columbia University; and, last yearís recipient, Dr. Yves Barde of the Biocenter at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

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Photo note: For a photo of Tsien, click on http://www.unc.edu/news/pics/faculty/tsien_roger.jpg

Note: Contact Snider at (919) 843-8623 or william_snider@med.unc.edu.

School of Medicine contact: Les Lang, (919) 843-9687 or llang@med.unc.edu