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LPI Prize for Health Research

2001 LPI Prize Recipient

The first Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research was presented on May 18, 2001, to Bruce Ames, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Director of the Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of California at Berkeley. The prize money was generously contributed to LPI by a donor who wishes anonymity. Dr. Ames is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a 1998 recipient of the National Medal of Science, which acknowledged him for "changing the direction of basic and applied research on mutation, cancer, and aging." He devised a widely used bacterial assay, the Salmonella Mutagenicity Assay or simply, the "Ames test", for determining the mutagenicity of chemicals that has had enormous importance in preventing their commercial introduction. Dr. Ames is a leading proponent of the hypothesis that oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids leads to aging and age-related disease, such as cancer, cataracts, and heart disease. According to Dr. Ames, such damage may be ameliorated by dietary antioxidants like vitamins C and E. Dr. Ames has also stressed the role of chronic inflammation in cancer and has become interested in the possible causal role of B vitamin deficiencies, including folate, B6, and B12, in cancer and brain dysfunction.

In his presentation of the award, Dr. Richard Scanlan, Dean of Research emeritus at Oregon State University and the chair of the Prize Selection Committee, noted that "Bruce Ames has been described as the quintessential scientist. His enviable record of scientific accomplishments has resulted in approximately 450 scientific publications, and he is one of the most cited authors from the 1970s to the present." Scanlan continued, "Like Pauling, Bruce Ames has been highly effective in communicating important health care information to legislative bodies, to policy makers, and to the general public." Scanlan quoted from several of the nomination letters, one of which noted that "Dr. Ames' brilliance in linking the methods and precepts of molecular biology to modern nutrition, translating this work to the promotion of health and prevention of chronic diseases, and working to apply these efforts to public health—together with his training of an international legion of scientific leaders—truly embodies the attributes and principles associated with Linus Pauling."

2003 LPI Prize Recipient

The 2003 Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research was presented on May 23, 2003, to Walter Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., who is the Frederick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Willett was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1998.

The 2003 prize money was generously contributed by a donor who wishes anonymity. Dr. Bruce Ames, 2001 LPI Prize recipient, praised Dr. Willett for his productivity and careful use of statistics to reveal important associations between dietary factors and health and disease that have been of enormous benefit to public health.

Dr. Willett was instrumental in the design and implementation of a widely used standardized dietary questionnaire to elucidate accurately the role of dietary factors in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other health issues. He also works on the development of biomarkers of dietary factors that are associated with health and disease. He has been involved in the Nurses’ Health Study, a prospective cohort of 121,700 women, since 1980, and is the Principal Investigator of two other cohort studies, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study of 52,000 men and the Nurses’ Health Study II of 116,000 younger women, which was initiated in 1989. These epidemiological studies, using questionnaires and biochemical analyses, have revealed a wealth of associations between dietary factors and disease. For example, Dr. Willett’s group has foundlinks between the intake of red meat and colon cancer, alcohol and breast cancer, obesity and the risk of chronic diseases, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) and heart disease. His research also revealed protective roles for vitamin E, vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin B6 against heart disease and showed that coffee consumption has no effect on the risk of heart disease. His group also found no association between a high intake of vitamin C and the risk of kidney stone formation in either men or women. Furthermore, Dr. Willett’s group found associations between the intake of cruciferous vegetables and a reduced risk of bladder cancer, high selenium intake and a reduced risk of total cancers, moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of diabetes, and the intake of lycopene in tomatoes and a decreased risk of prostate cancer.

Dr. Willett has been exceptionally productive, having published over 700 scientific papers and a popular book, Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, which offers a new Food Pyramid based on recent research. He also wrote an extremely influential textbook, Nutritional Epidemiology, first published in 1990. As one of the nomination letters stated, "Like Dr. Pauling, Dr. Willett strives ceaselessly to apply research findings for the benefit of the public...[he] exemplifies some of the features that characterized Dr. Pauling—rigorous science, a keen interest in human problems and their solutions, and the pursuit of truth, regardless of the opinions of others."

2005 LPI Prize Recipient

The 2005 LPI Prize for Health Research was awarded on May 18, 2005, at the 3rd Diet and Optimum Health Conference to Paul Talalay, M.D., who is the John Jacob Abel Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Born and raised in England, Dr. Talalay earned a B.S. in Biophysics from MIT and an M.D. from Yale. He worked at the University of Chicago with Nobel Laureate Dr. Charles Huggins before joining Johns Hopkins in 1963. Dr. Talalay was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1987 and serves as Associate Editor of Cancer Research. He has published over 200 scientific papers.

As the Director of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Johns Hopkins from 1963 to 1974, Dr. Talalay was instrumental in developing its world-renowned reputation. Stimulated by Huggins's work on hormone-responsive tumors, Dr. Talalay worked initially on steroid metabolism and found that one steroid-metabolizing enzyme on which he had been working was glutathione transferase, which helps protect the body from carcinogens and oxidant damage. In the late 1970s, Dr. Talalay demonstrated that the anticancer effect of the antioxidant food additives BHA and BHT was due to their induction of phase 2 enzymes in the liver that block carcinogenesis. This led to the search for naturally occurring inducers of phase 2 enzymes. In a 1992 paper, Dr. Talalay reported that a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which is an isothiocyanate especially abundant in the cruciferous vegetable broccoli, is a potent inducer of phase 2 enzymes in cultured cells and mice. Sulforaphane and other isothiocyanates have also been found to inhibit chemically-induced carcinogenesis in animals. Sulforaphane induces enzymes, including quinone reductase and the antioxidant glutathione S-transferase, that can detoxify carcinogens and prevent toxic electrophiles from damaging DNA. Dr. Talalay developed a novel quantitative assay to screen for natural inducers of quinone reductase, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in 1992 and has been widely applied. In fact, this assay was used to identify sulforaphane as a putative anticancer phytochemical. Additionally, Dr. Talalay showed for the first time how many inducers of phase 2 enzymes also induce endogenous antioxidant defenses. Dr. Talalay found that the amount of sulforaphane in broccoli is quite variable, which led him to focus on broccoli sprouts as a reproducibly high source.

Several nomination letters noted a parallel between Dr. Talalay's research and that of Linus Pauling, both of whom "spent early years in basic molecular studies and later brought the rigor and insight from this experience to bear on larger problems of health and nutrition." Dr. Talalay was saluted for his pragmatic research strategies, the practical application of his work to public health, and for helping us to understand what phytochemicals may be partly responsible for the cancer chemoprotection afforded by a regular intake of vegetables, as demonstrated by epidemiological studies, and how these substances work. Nominators also cited Dr. Talalay's devotion to young scientists and sustained mentorship. Dr. Talalay continues to work on the complicated molecular mechanisms involved in cancer chemoprotection by sulforaphane and related substances and has recently reported the antibiotic effect of sulforaphane against H. pylori, the bacterium associated with gastric ulcers and cancer.

2007 LPI Prize Recipient

Mark Levine, M.D., an internationally recognized researcher on the function and pharmacokinetics of vitamin C, has been awarded the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research, one of the leading honors in the world for excellence in the study of nutrition, micronutrients, and natural approaches to health.

The award was made on May 18, 2007, at the fourth biennial conference, "Diet and Optimum Health," held in Portland, Oregon, and organized by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Levine is chief of the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health. He is author of more than 125 publications in professional journals, has studied vitamin C for more than 20 years and is considered one of the leading scientists in the world on this essential antioxidant.

"Dr. Mark Levine is a passionate scientist and one of the true pioneers in the study of vitamin C, especially in its relationship to cancer," said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute. "His work has built on some of the earliest findings about vitamin C made by Pauling himself, has been instrumental in raising the amounts now recommended for daily intake, and has contributed a great deal to our understanding of this nutrient's biological functions, its transport into cells, and its role in immune function."

Some of Levine's latest work, Frei said, in fact relates specifically to some studies Pauling and Ewan Cameron did in the 1970s on the potential of large intravenous dosages of vitamin C to improve the quality of life of cancer patients and extend survival time. Blood levels of vitamin C that can be obtained through intravenous infusions are far higher than anything that can be reached by oral intake, and Levine's research - as did Pauling's before it - suggests at these levels the nutrient has the ability to selectively kill cancer cells, Frei said.

"Levine . . . may be the only scientist today with the credibility and knowledge to advance exploration of ascorbic acid as a pharmacologic agent," said one researcher in nominating him for this prize. "His work has been groundbreaking and has contributed importantly to understanding the pharmacology and biology of vitamin C in human health and disease."

2009 LPI Prize Recipient

Michael Holick, Ph.D., M.D., a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine who has revolutionized the understanding of vitamin D and its role in disease prevention, has received the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research.

The prize was presented at a biennial conference, Diet and Optimum Health, sponsored by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. It recognizes international leaders in research on the role of diet and nutrition in health promotion and disease prevention, as well as efforts to disseminate knowledge on diet, lifestyle and health to enhance public health and reduce suffering from disease.

Holick is responsible for redefining vitamin D deficiency, a concern that's now seen as a national epidemic, and has been strongly criticized in the past 20 years when warning that abstinence from direct sun exposure through sunblock use was leading to increasing vitamin D deficiency – with serious implications for cancer and other diseases.

"I well remember Linus Pauling standing up to criticism and skepticism, a trait of Holick as well," said Nevin Scrimshaw, president of the International Nutrition Foundation, in nominating him for this award. "Today, Holick is recognized as a world renowned nutritional biochemist/physician whose research has had a global impact on the health of both children and adults."

Holick's work opened a wide field of investigation that has now demonstrated how vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of cancer, autoimmune diseases, infectious and cardiovascular disease, Scrimshaw said. And studies have concluded that more than 50 percent of the children and adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient – a growing crisis, due in part to successful campaigns to always wear sun protection outdoors and reduce natural production of what's known as the "sunshine vitamin."

Holick was the first scientist to isolate the active forms of vitamin D, and in the past three decades has become the world authority on photobiology of vitamin D through synthesis in the skin. He's determined that anyone living north of 35 degrees latitude can't make enough vitamin D in the skin during winter exposure to sunlight. His work has helped lead to vitamin D fortification in various foods.

In more recent work, Holick has shown links between vitamin D deficiency and the development of preeclampsia in pregnancy. An understanding of the health benefits of vitamin D was cited by Time magazine as one of the top 10 medical advances in 2007.

2011 LPI Prize Recipient

Connie Weaver, Ph.D., an alumna of Oregon State University and one of the world's leading experts on dietary calcium, its role in bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis, was awarded the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research on September 15, 2011.

The award is one of the most significant in the field of diet and nutrition, recognizing excellence in research and successful efforts to disseminate new knowledge to the public and the health profession.

The honor is made by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and Weaver was recognized at the biennial conference on Diet and Optimum Health held at OSU on September 13-15, 2011.

Weaver, a distinguished professor and head of the Department of Foods and Nutrition at Purdue University, received both bachelor's and master's degrees in nutrition from OSU in the early 1970s, and has been recognized with multiple honors as she revolutionized the understanding of calcium in bone health, the importance of building bone mass during adolescence, the problem of bone loss in postmenopausal women and ways to help prevent osteoporosis.

"Dr. Weaver's work in the field of calcium metabolism is extraordinary," said Balz Frei, professor and director of the Linus Pauling Institute. "She not only did outstanding original research and developed novel technologies to study the role of calcium in bone health, but also helped take that knowledge to the national stage and inform our current dietary reference intakes for calcium. Her work in turning good science into good public policy has helped prevent osteoporosis for millions of people, reducing suffering from bone fractures and improving health all over the world.

"Part of what we recognize with the LPI Prize for Health Research is taking that extra step, not only expanding our knowledge base, but implementing that knowledge and making a true difference in people's lives."

Weaver is also director of the Botanical Center for Age Related Diseases at Purdue University and deputy director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute, both funded by the National Institutes of Health. She received her doctorate in nutrition from Florida State University.

Osteoporosis is a major health problem around the world, and health care costs related to hip fractures alone exceed $17 billion a year in the United States. Weaver has explored such issues as dietary alternatives to estrogen replacement therapy, models to study calcium kinetics and bone strength and dietary factors that enhance or inhibit calcium absorption.

The Linus Pauling Institute is a "center of excellence," so designated by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

2013 LPI Prize Recipient

Helmut Sies, M.D., a pioneer in the study of carotenoids and flavonoids, was awarded the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research, one of the leading honors of its type in the world.

This was the seventh time the award has been made, which recognizes excellence in research relating to the roles of vitamins, essential minerals and phytochemicals in promoting health, and preventing or treating disease. It was presented at the Diet and Optimum Health conference in Oregon, and includes a medal and $25,000 honorarium.

Sies, a physician and biochemist at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf in Germany, has more than 600 original research articles and book chapters on many topics in nutrition and cancer prevention. In a landmark 1985 publication he first coined the term "oxidative stress."

Sies is a leader in the study of carotenoids in plants that can give them the ability to help protect the skin and other organs from cancer-causing free radicals, and flavonoids in cocoa that improve blood vessel function and reduce cardiovascular risk.

"Dr. Sies helped explain how some of the carotenoids and flavonoids found in vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots can help prevent the oxidation or cell damage from free radicals, which is an important causal factor of cancer and many other human diseases," said Balz Frei, professor and head of the Linus Pauling Institute, located at Oregon State University.

"Research on nutrition, phytochemicals and optimal diet is truly global, and it’s an honor for us to present Dr. Sies this award as the first international recipient of the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research," Frei said.

Sies has also done important work with essential fatty acids that can prevent inflammation, cellular signaling pathways in cancer development, and the role of nitric oxide in cancer- and heart disease-related events. His colleagues also cited him for bringing his findings out of the laboratory and into public awareness to "enhance public health and reduce suffering from disease," which is one of the criteria on which this award is based.

"Helmut has built a bridge between nutrition science and health sciences," said Enrique Cadenas, professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Southern California. "Helmut’s work transcended the scientific community to the general public, addressing health issues driven by diet and lifestyle."