Philip Leder received the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics 1990 in recognition of his pioneering research in the field of molecular biology, in particular immunology and cancer research.
In 1968 attention was focussed on Professor Lederfor work carried out in Professor M.N. Nirenberg’s laboratory which contributed to the deciphering of the genetic code.
In 1978 and 1979 Professor Leder made a number of fundamental contributions to the knowledge and structure of genes in higher organisms. His discovery of the base sequence of a complete mammalian gene (the gene for betaglobin) enabled him to determine its organisation in detail, including its associated control signals. His research into the structure of genes which carry the code for antibody molecules was of pioneering significance. The main focus of inquiry was the question of how the enormous diversity of antibody molecules formed by a single individual arises. Leder’s work on antibody genes was later extended to research into Burkitt’s lymphoma, a tumour of antibody-producing cells, which involves the oncogene c-myc. This was crucial in understanding the origin of this type of tumour. In his recent work he has used transgenic mice carrying a single activated oncogene to determine how many genetic mutations are necessary for the development of a cancer cell. What is striking in his research is his multi-faceted approach to the problem, such as the study of specific growth signals, growth factors, etc.
Professor Leder is one of the formost researchers in the oncogene field. Moreover, he combines his outstanding qualities as a scientist with exceptional gifts as a speaker.
Philip Leder was born in 1934 in Washington D.C. He received his B.A. from Harvard College in 1956 and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1960. He holds honorary doctorates from Yale University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York and the University of Guelph, Ontario.
From 1968 to 1973 he headed the Biochemistry Department of the Graduate Program of the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1972 Professor Lederwas appointed director of the Laboratory for Molecular Genetics at the same institution and remained in that post until 1980. In 1980 he returned to Harvard Medical School as Professor of Genetics, occupying the John Emory Andrus Chair. In 1986 Professor Leder became a senior researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
He has been awarded various honours and prizes for his scientific work.
Professor Leder is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. He is a member of the board of a large number of scientific institutions in the United States.
Professor Leder passed away in February 2020.