JoAnne Stubbe wins Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

Danielle Randall
October 10, 2017

This article was originally featured on the MIT News Page.

The Rockefeller University has selected JoAnne Stubbe as the 2017 recipient of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize.

Stubbe, the Novartis Professor of Chemistry, Emerita in MIT's Department of Chemistry, illuminated the mechanism of ribonucleotide reductase — the enzyme responsible for converting ribonucleotides, the building blocks of RNA, into deoxyribonucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. Ribonucleotide reductase is a proven target for three currently-used cancer therapies, and her research on mechanism-based inhibitors of reductase led to the development of the pancreatic cancer drug gemcitabine. Stubbe, in collaboration with biochemist John Kozarich, elucidated the mechanism of bleomycin, an antitumor therapeutic commonly used in the treatment of lymphoma and other malignancies.

In 2009, Stubbe was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama. She is also the recipient of the Welch Award in Chemistry, the Franklin Medal in Chemistry, and many other accolades. 

“Dr. Stubbe has revealed a key part of the complex chemistry underlying the biology of life, and her unique approach has led to profound findings about the catalytic processes that drive DNA replication and repair — the essential functions of life and heredity,” says Paul Greengard, the Vincent Astor Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at Rockefeller University.

Greengard and his wife, the sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard, founded the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize in 2004. Greengard, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his contributions to understanding nerve cell communication in the brain, has been a lifelong advocate for women in science. He donated his Nobel honorarium to Rockefeller to found the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, naming the award after his mother, who died during his birth.

“It’s an incredible honor to be chosen to receive the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize — especially when I look at the extraordinary list of women who have received this award before me,” Stubbe says. “There were very few women in chemistry during the early years of my career, and while so much has changed, supporting and spotlighting the work of women scientists is still very important. My own mother and grandmother were strong, amazing women who encouraged me to pursue my passions, and I’m grateful to Dr. Greengard for creating such a special tribute to women in honor of his own mother.” 

The prize carries a $100,000 honorarium, and winners are chosen by a committee of ten scientists, four of them recipients of the Nobel Prize. Wellesley College president and renowned cardiologist and women’s health advocate Paula A. Johnson will present Stubbe with the award in a ceremony at Rockefeller on Nov. 7.

The ceremony is open to the public, but registration is required. For more information, please visit rockefeller.edu/greengard-prize.