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Science / Medicine : 2 California Scientists Win Research Awards

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Two California scientists were named last week as winners of the 1991 Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards. The prestigious awards, which carry a stipend of $15,000, are frequently viewed as precursors of Nobel prizes. During the 45-year history of the awards, 49 recipients have subsequently received Nobels.

Caltech geneticist Edward B. Lewis shared one award with geneticist Christiane Nusslein-Volhard of Germany for their research into the genetics of fruit flies. The award was specifically for his discovery of the Bithorax complex, a cluster of genes in the fruit fly that control how the body segments develop.

Geneticist Yuet Wai Kan of UC San Francisco received a separate award for his pioneering research on the genetic basis of human diseases. In 1975, Kan discovered that a severe form of the blood disease alpha-thalassemia was caused by lack of a gene for one component of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin--the first time a gene deletion was recognized as the cause of a human disease.

Also last week, astronomer Allan Sandage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s observatory in Pasadena won the $327,332 Crafoord Prize for 40 years of discoveries, including measurements of the age of the universe and how fast it is expanding. Sandage observed the deaths of so-called globular clusters to conclude that the universe is at least 10 billion years old. Subsequent studies have extended the age to 13 billion to 18 billion years.

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