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02/17/1999 08:00:00

Professor Seymour Benzer Receives Ellison Medical Senior Foundation Scholar Award

PASADENA-The California Institute of Technology is pleased to announce that Seymour Benzer, the James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Emeritus, has been named a 1998 Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar as part of the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholars in Aging Program. The $993,000 award will support Benzer's research over the next four years.

Benzer's recent research has centered around the discovery of the "Methuselah" gene in fruit flies. This gene, when mutated, increases the life span of the fruit fly by one-third. The discovery of this gene has interesting implications for future research in that an analogous gene might also be found in humans.

"Very often indeed, fruit fly genes have human homologues," Benzer said in discussing his current research. "The basic idea is to use the fruit fly as a model system and look for human equivalents."

Benzer received his BA in 1942 from Brooklyn College and a PhD from Purdue University in 1974. Before joining the Caltech faculty in 1965, he had been the Stuart Distinguished Professor of Biophysics at Purdue University. Benzer has won numerous other awards while on the faculty at Caltech, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize.

The Ellison Medical Foundation has been established by a gift from Mr. Laurence J. Ellison to support biomedical research (including basic biology, epidemiology, and clinical investigation) on aging. The Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholars in Aging Program is designed to support established investigators in their conduct of research in the basic biological and clinical sciences relevant to understanding aging processes and age-related diseases and disabilities. The award is intended to provide the significant support to established investigators in order to allow this development of new, creative research programs by investigators who may not currently be conducting aging research or who may wish to develop new research programs in aging.

Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and a faculty of about 280 professorial members and 130 research members. The Institute has more than 19,000 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of more than 1,700 on campus and 5,300 at JPL.

Over the years, 27 Nobel Prizes and four Crafoord Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni. Forty-three Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science; and eight alumni (two of whom are also trustees), two additional trustees, and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award.

On the Caltech faculty there are 75 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the faculty and Board of Trustees, 68 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 46 members of the National Academy of Engineering.