At its annual honors and awards banquet Tuesday night at the Governor’s Mansion, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation awarded the Edward L. and Thelma Gaylord Prize for Scientific Achievement to Gary Gorbsky, Ph.D.
Also that evening, Robert J. Barstead, Ph.D., was installed as the G.T. Blankenship Chair in Alzheimer’s and Aging Research. The event was hosted by First Lady Kim Henry.
Gorbsky became only the 12th scientist in OMRF history to receive the Gaylord Prize, OMRF’s highest scientific honor. Established in 1991, the award is named for the late Edward L. Gaylord, who served on OMRF’s board for more than 40 years, and his late wife, Thelma.
Gorbsky was honored for his research on mitosis, the process of how cells divide. He recently became the first scientist anywhere to reverse the process of cell division. When he published the results of his work last month in Nature—one of the world’s leading scientific journals—the paper garnered international attention, with coverage by the BBC, Russian Newsweek, newspapers in Brazil, France and Scotland, and numerous scientific media in the U.S. and throughout the world.
“Dr. Gorbsky’s results provide elegant proof that the cell cycle must be precisely controlled,” said Dr. Rodger McEver, OMRF’s vice president of research. “Now he and his lab can work toward developing innovative methods to probe and better understand the complex process of cell division.”
The discovery may prove important to controlling the development and metastasis of certain cancers. It also holds promise for the prevention and treatment of birth defects and a wide variety of other conditions.
Gorbsky holds the W.H. and Betty Phelps Chair in Developmental Biology and heads the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Research Program at OMRF. He earned his B.S. from the College of William and Mary and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University.
Barstead, the new Blankenship Chair, earned his doctorate from Northwestern University. Since joining OMRF in 1993, he has established himself as a major figure in the field of worm genetics, systematically decoding the genomes of tiny organisms whose genetic makeup provides important clues for solving diseases from Alzheimer’s to muscular dystrophy.
OMRF on Tuesday night also welcomed R. Deane Wymer of Fairview to its board of directors. A CPA, Wymer is a partner in the tax, accounting and investment firm of Wymer Brownlee and Associates. He has previously served as Fairview’s mayor and president of the Oklahoma Society of Public Accountants.
“Fairview and northwest Oklahoma have a long tradition of service and leadership on OMRF’s board,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “We’re pleased to welcome Deane Wymer as he carries on this 60-year legacy.”
Kenneth Hensley, Ph.D., also received OMRF’s inaugural Institutional Advancement award at the dinner. The award was presented to Hensley, an OMRF researcher who specializes in degenerative brain disease, for his service in promoting OMRF and assisting in philanthropic and community outreach.
Finally, OMRF director Galen Robbins, M.D., received the Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award. A retired Oklahoma City cardiovascular surgeon, Robbins has served on OMRF’s board since 1982. He currently chairs the board’s technology transfer committee.
High-resolution, digital photos of Gorbsky, Barstead, Wymer, Hensley and Robbins are available upon request.
Celebrating its 60th birthday in 2006, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and curing human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. It is home to Oklahoma’s only member of the National Academy of Sciences.