The Gairdner Foundation
of Canada has named Clay M. Armstrong, MD, Professor
of Physiology at the University of Pennsylvania School
of Medicine, one of four scientists to receive its 2001
International Award for achievement in medical science.
Armstrong will be honored along with two other researchers
for advances in establishing the molecular structure
of ion channels and discerning how those channels function
in generating nerve impulses. A fourth researcher will
be honored for work with microtubules.
A fifth scientist, Henry Friesen, MD, of the Board of
Genome Canada in Winnipeg, will receive the Gairdner
Foundation's Wightman Award for Contributions to Canadian
The Gairdner's International Award, which has been bestowed
by the non-profit foundation annually since 1959, is
one of the most significant international medical science
awards. Winners are selected from hundreds of candidates
in a secret ballot by a committee of scientists from
Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Of
251 past recipients, 54 have gone on to win the Nobel
Armstrong, who also received the prestigious John Scott
Award from the City of Philadelphia last year for his
work, uses giant axon cells of the squid in his research.
He studies the "gating" process, which opens
and closes ion (sodium and potassium) channels, in work
that has expanded scientific understanding of the human
body's electrophysiology: Ion channels, responding to
the electrical potential of cell membranes, initiate
the electrical impulses involved in muscle contraction,
cardiac rhythm, hormone secretion and storing-and-retrieving
information in the brain.
Also honored by the Gairdner Foundation for their work
on ion channels are Bertil Hille, PhD, of the University
of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and Roderick
MacKinnon, MD, of Rockefeller University and the Howard
Hughes Medical Institute in New York City.
Marc Kirshner, PhD, of Harvard University Medical School,
is also honored this year for his work on microtubules.
Armstrong is a graduate of Rice University. He received
his medical degree from Washington University. He was
awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 1996, and
the Lasker Award in 1999. As well as serving as a Professor
of Physiology at Penn, he is a member of the Neurosciences
Graduate Group. He belongs to the National Academy of
Sciences, the Biophysical Society, and the Society of
Armstrong will be honored along with the other Gairdner
award recipients at a reception by the Foundation in
Toronto in October.
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