The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation will honor a pair of scientists and a board member at its annual honors and awards banquet Tuesday. For the first time in OMRF’s 61-year history, the event will be held in Tulsa, at historic Cain’s Ballroom.
OMRF will award Linda Thompson, Ph.D., the Edward L. and Thelma Gaylord Prize for Scientific Achievement, and Fletcher Taylor Jr., M.D., will be recognized as a Distinguished Career Scientist. W. Lance Benham III also will receive the Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award.
Thompson becomes only the 13th scientist in OMRF history to receive the Gaylord Prize, OMRF’s highest scientific honor. 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.
Thompson is being honored for her pioneering genetics studies in the area of adenosine deaminase deficiency, a rare and potentially fatal immune system disorder that leaves the body open to infection and viruses.
In a separate project, by creating a mouse model that is missing the gene for the anti-inflammatory agent adenosine, she also has been able to illuminate how the immune system works. Most recently, her research also has led to discoveries and implications for treating thrombosis, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.
“Because of the importance of Dr. Thompson’s work, it’s fitting that she receive OMRF’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “Important insights have come from her work, and they’ve given hope to patients with an array of health problems.”
A member of OMRF’s Immunobiology and Cancer Research Program, Thompson holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. She earned her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and completed her post-doctoral studies at the University of California, San Diego. She joined OMRF’s scientific staff in 1989.
OMRF will honor Taylor as its fourth Distinguished Career Scientist. A member of the foundation’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program, Taylor joined the OMRF scientific staff in 1982. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and his M.D. from the University of California School of Medicine. He also earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Taylor is a pioneer in the field of blood infections, and his research led to the creation of Xigris, the first and only FDA-approved treatment for severe sepsis. In 1985, he was named the first H. Allen and Mary K. Chapman Chair in Medical Research at OMRF.
Finally, Benham will receive the Board of Directors Distinguished Service Award. He is president and chief executive officer of The Benham Companies, an integrated architecture-engineering and design firm. He joined the OMRF board of directors in 1995. Currently, he serves as vice chairman of OMRF’s Executive Committee and chairs the Human Relations Committee.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. OMRF is home to Oklahoma’s only member of the National Academy of Sciences.