Allan C. Spradling, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Embryology, has been awarded the 2008 Genetics Prize by the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation in recognition of his contributions to fruit fly genomics and for “fundamental discoveries about the earliest stages of reproduction.” The prize, which consists of a gold medal and $500,000, will be presented to Spradling at the International Congress of Genetics in Berlin on July 13, 2008.
“Allan Spradling is an exceptionally talented scientist,” commented Carnegie president Richard A. Meserve. “I am extraordinarily pleased at this deserved recognition of Allan’s pathbreaking work.”
Spradling’s scientific accomplishments span a wide range of areas, but he is best known for his work on stem cells in living tissues and the “niches” or specialized microenvironments in which stem cells grow. In 1990 Spradling’s group described the first stem cell niche using ovary tissue from the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Spradling went on to define the molecular pathways that regulate stem cell behavior within their niches. His work on Drosophila stem cells and niches has helped guide mammalian stem cell research.
Twenty years ago, Spradling co-developed with Gerald Rubin the first successful method for inserting genes into the Drosophila genome. Spradling subsequently applied engineered DNA segments to induce mutations in Drosophila genes, which was a key step in understanding the genes’ functions and therefore the functions of corresponding genes in humans. This groundbreaking work helped establish Drosophila as one of the most useful model organisms for studying human genetics, development, and disease.
Spradling was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and studied mathematics and physics at the University of Chicago before switching to biology. He earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975 where he discovered that many cells induce the same small set of genes following heat shock. As a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University, he discovered the first protein-coding genes that become amplified during development. Spradling joined Carnegie Institution’s Department of Embryology in 1980. Since 1994 he has been the department’s director.
Spradling has been awarded many prizes and accolades for his work, including jointly winning with Gerald Rubin the Newcomb Cleveland Prize and the Molecular Biology Award of the National Academy of Sciences. He also received the E.G. Conklin Award of the Society for Developmental Biology and the G.W. Beadle Award of the Genetics Society of America. Spradling was recently awarded an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.
A profile of Spradling, photos, background information and nomination details for 2009 are available online at www.gruberprizes.org.
The Gruber Prize Program honors contemporary individuals in the fields of Cosmology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Justice and Women’s Rights, whose groundbreaking work provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. The Selection Advisory Boards choose individuals whose contributions in their respective fields advance our knowledge, potentially have a profound impact on our lives, and, in the case of the Justice and Women’s Rights Prizes, demonstrate courage and commitment in the face of significant obstacles.
The Genetics Prize honors leading scientists for distinguished contributions in any realm of genetics research. The Foundation’s other international prizes are in Cosmology, Neuroscience, Justice, and Women’s Rights. Nominations for the 2009 prizes are now open and close on December 15, 2008.