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December 10, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Lisa De Nike
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Johns Hopkins' Beemon Wins Prestigious Retrovirology Prize

Karen Beemon, a professor and chair of the Department of Biology at The Johns Hopkins University, has won the third annual M. Jeang Retrovirology Prize, which recognizes outstanding mid-career retrovirologists ages 45 to 60.

Supported by the Texas-based Ming K. Jeang Foundation, the prize comprises a $3,000 check and a crystal trophy, as well as an interview (published today) in the open access journal Retrovirology.

Beemon was recognized for contributing greatly to the understanding of how retroviruses transform cells.

"Professor Beemon was instrumental in establishing that one of the important transformation mechanisms is the aberrant phosphorylation of cellular proteins on tyrosine residues," Retrovirology editor Kuan-Teh Jeang said.

Retroviruses are a class of viruses characterized by their ability to convert RNA to DNA during replication in the host cell, which is the reverse of the central dogma of molecular biology. Retroviruses are of interest because some of them cause HIV and cancer.

"I am very honored to receive the 2007 Retrovirology Prize. It is wonderful to be recognized by the Retrovirology community," Beemon said. "It is gratifying that this prize was awarded for basic research with chicken retroviruses, including Rous sarcoma virus.

The virus was discovered by Peyton Rous, who was both an undergraduate and a medical student at Johns Hopkins more than 100 years ago, Beemon said.

"I became fascinated with retroviruses as a graduate student and have studied them ever since," she said. "I am amazed at how complex and elegant the simple retroviruses actually are and how much they have taught us about viral gene expression and mechanisms of oncogenesis. I am indebted to my mentors, students, and collaborators, who contributed to this research."

The M Jeang Retrovirology Prize winner is selected by Retrovirology's editors from among nominations submitted by the journal's editorial board.

Beemon came to Johns Hopkins in 1981. She earned her bachelor's degree from University of Michigan and her PhD in 1974 from the University of California Berkeley, where she also was a postdoctoral fellow. She also served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute. Beemon was among the first to develop and apply molecular techniques to characterize the genomes of RNA viruses, describe recombination between viral genomes, characterize sarcoma-specific sequences, and perform structure-function analysis of src proteins. Over the last two decades, Beemon has contributed significantly to the scientific community's understanding of the role of cis-acting regulatory elements in regulation of RNA splicing, polyadenylation, nuclear export and nonsense-mediated RNA decay.

In addition to the Retrovirology Prize, Beemon's honors in research recognition include the American Cancer Society's Faculty Research Award and the John E. Fogarty Senior International Fellowship. She has published nearly 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts and review articles in journals ranked in the top of their subject field. This year she was appointed a senior editor of the Journal of Virology.

Retrovirology is an open access online journal published by BioMed Central. The journal publishes stringently peer-reviewed, high-impact articles on basic retrovirus research. For more information about the Retrovirology Prize, read the Retrovirology editorial: www.retrovirology.com/content/4/1/64. Beemon's interview is here: www.retrovirology.com/ .