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Harvard Biochemist Tom Rapoport Awarded Max Delbrück Medal in Berlin

Professor Tom Rapoport from Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, has been awarded the Max Delbrück Medal in Berlin for his “seminal role in the elucidation of the mechanisms of protein transport in cells”. Proteins are the building material for the body and critical for its proper functioning. Professor Rapoport identified essential cellular structures which carry proteins across the cell membrane and deliver it to the “customers”.

“A cell is like a factory: one of its most important jobs

is to produce proteins. But in cellular factories, the sorting task is complicated

by the fact that proteins are used by the cell itself as well as delivered to

outside "customers", Professor Rapoport said in his lecture following

the award ceremony. He was able to demonstrate that a channel located

within the cell membrane plays a crucial role in this process. This channel not

only carries some proteins through the membrane, but also stores others. For

several years, Professor Rapoport has been studying how the characteristic

shape of an organelle develops, focusing on the tubular system which extends

throughout the entire cell and is necessary for the transport of proteins.

Tom Rapoport was born on June 17, 1947 in Cincinnati, USA.

His parents had fled Nazi-Germany. In the fifties, his family returned to

Europe and eventually went to East Berlin. Following high school, Professor

Rapoport studied chemistry and biochemistry at Humboldt University in Berlin

and earned his PhD in 1972. He then became an investigator at the Central

Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR in Berlin-Buch. In 1982, he

worked for a few months in the laboratory of Günter Blobel at Rockefeller

University, New York, USA, who in 1999 received the Nobel Prize. In 1985, Tom

Rapoport became Professor for Cell Biology and research group leader at the Central

Institute in Berlin-Buch, which, after German reunification, became the Max

Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch in 1992. Tom Rapoport

became research group leader at the MDC and in January 1995 he joined the

faculty of Harvard Medical School in Boston, where he was appointed as a Howard

Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator in 1997.

Professor Rapoport has received many honours and is a

member of several prestigious organizations including the German Academy of

Natural Scientists Leopoldina, the European Molecular Biology Organization

(EMBO), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of

Science. In addition, he is an External Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

in Göttingen. Professor Rapoport has been awarded  the Johannes Müller Prize for Experimental

Medicine, the Rudolf-Virchow Prize, and the Otto Warburg Medal of the Society

for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Begun in 1992, the Max Delbrück Medal is given annually to

an outstanding scientist and is awarded at the "Berlin Lectures on

Molecular Medicine". The “Berlin Lectures” are organized by the MDC, the

three Universities in Berlin, biomedical research institutions, and the

Schering Forschungsgesellschaft (Research Foundation). The MDC is a national

research laboratory of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and

named after the Nobel Prize Winner Max Delbrück, a Berlin born physicist and

biologist (September 4, 1906 Berlin – March 10, 1981 Pasadena/USA).

Recipients of the Max Delbrück Medal

2005 Professor Tom

Rapoport, Harvard Medical School, Boston/USA

2004 Professor

Victor J. Dzau, Duke Universität, Durham (USA)

2003 Professor 

Ronald D. G. McKay, National Institute of Neurological

Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Bethesda,


2002 Professor Roger Y. Tsien, Howard Hughes

Medical Institute (HHMI) und University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, USA

2001 Professor Eric S. Lander, Whitehead

Institute, Cambridge, USA

2000 Professor Joan Argetsinger Steitz, Yale

Universität, New Haven, USA)

1999 Professor Paul Berg, Stanford

Universität, USA (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1980)

1998 Professor Svante Pääbo, Max Planck

Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

1997 Professor Charles Weissmann, University

of Zurich, Switzerland

1996 Professor Robert A. Weinberg, Whitehead

Institute, Cambridge, USA

1995 Professor Jean-Pierre Changeux,

Pasteur-Institut, Paris, Frankreich

1994 Professor

Sydney Brenner, Universität Cambridge, Großbritannien (Nobel Prize in

Medicine, 2002)

1993 cancelled

1992 Professor Günter Blobel, Rockefeller Universität New York, USA (Nobel

Prize in  Medicine, 1999)

Prof. Tom Rapoport, Recipient of the Max Delbrück Medal 2005 (Photo: Harvard Medical School)

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Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)
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