April 15, 2002

UCSD Professor Wins 2002 Heineken Prize For Biochemistry

Roger Y. Tsien, Ph.D.

Roger Y. Tsien, a professor of pharmacology and of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, has won this year's Dr. H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Tsien, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, was awarded the $150,000 prize by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for "his extraordinary and unique contribution to the development of a series of methods and techniques for measuring and visualizing processes within and between cells." He will be presented with the prize, which includes a crystal trophy, during a special session of the Royal Academy on September 24 in Amsterdam.

Once every two years, the Royal Academy awards four major Heineken prizes in the fields of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Medicine, History, and Environmental Sciences. The prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics is the oldest of the Heineken prizes, which are named after the father of Alfred Heineken, and has been awarded since 1964. Four of the previous recipients of the Dr. H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics later received Nobel Prizes: Christiaan de Duve and Paul Nurse for Medicine and Sir Aaron Klug and Thomas R. Cech for Chemistry.

Tsien's work involved improving and exploiting a green fluorescent protein molecule from Aequorea victoria, a jellyfish that glows brightly in the dark. He and his collaborators also synthesized variants of the protein with other colors. Introducing this molecule or its variants into a cell, the Royal Academy said, "has made it possible to follow all kinds of biochemical processes within living cells 'in real time;' they are

literally made visible. Among other things, the many molecules that Tsien's laboratory has developed enable the transmission of signals between cells to be tracked. They can also be used to monitor intracellular acidity and to follow the transmission of sodium and calcium within cells."

The Royal Academy added that "Tsien's methods are now widely used by other researchers for different purposes, such as searching for the factors which cause the creation of malignant cells. Tsien himself is responsible, among other things, for laying bare a molecular mechanism involved in the synaptic adaptive capacity of the brain."

Tsien received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University and his doctorate at the University of Cambridge with the aid of a Marshall Scholarship. He was a professor of physiology at the University of California, Berkeley until 1989, when he came to UCSD. Further information on the Heineken Prizes can be found at: http://www.knaw.nl/heinekenprizes/

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Comment: Roger Y. Tsien (858) 534-4891, rtsien@ucsd.edu

Media Contact: Kim McDonald (858) 534-7572, kimmcdonald@ucsd.edu