Hope Funds for Cancer Research
Press Release

Hope Funds to Honor Joan A. Steitz with Watson Award

For Immediate Release
Media Contact:
John A. Wells
NEWPORT, RI -- June 13, 2021-- Hope Funds for Cancer Research, dedicated to advancing innovative research for the most difficult-to-treat cancers, announced today that is will bestow its most prestigious honor, the James D. Watson Award, upon Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D. at a gala ceremony in Newport.

The award has been presented only once before, in 2014, to biologist James D. Watson, for his pivotal discovery of the structure of DNA. Dr. Steitz is the second recipient for her work at the University of Cambridge, where she discovered the exact sequences on mRNA at which bacterial ribosomes bind to produce proteins. In 1969 she published a seminal paper in Nature showing the nucleotide sequence of the bound start points.

"Hope Funds is privileged to honor Dr. Steitz for her revolutionary discoveries in RNA that fundamentally changed science, and that are currently addressing a global pandemic," said Bryan R.G. Williams, Ph.D., Chairman, Hope Funds Scientific Advisory Council, "Dr. Steitz is an extraordinary scientist, and an exceptional mentor to future generations of scientists as well."

Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D.
Dr. Steitz is Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is known for her discoveries involving RNA. Joan received her B.S. degree in chemistry from Antioch College, Ohio and studied molecular biology in Alex Rich's lab at MIT as an Antioch "coop" intern. She was accepted to Harvard Medical School, but having been excited by bench-science in the laboratory of Joseph Gall at the University of Minnesota, she declined the invitation to Harvard Medical School and instead applied to Harvard's program in biochemistry and molecular biology. She was the first female graduate student to join the laboratory of James D. Watson. Dr. Steitz completed her postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge (UK), where she collaborated with Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, and Mark Bretscher. At Cambridge, Dr. Steitz discovered the exact sequences on mRNA at which bacterial ribosomes bind to produce proteins. In 1969 she published a seminal paper in Nature showing the nucleotide sequence of the bound start points. In 1970, Dr. Steitz joined the faculty at Yale. In 1975, she published the research for which she is widely known, demonstrating that ribosomes use complementary base pairing to identify the start sites on bacterial mRNA. Starting in 1979 with her MD/PhD student Michael Lerner, she identified novel cellular entities called snRNPs and defined their roles in splicing. Her later characterization of another kind of snRNP particle, snoRNPs, demonstrated conclusively that introns are not junk-DNA. Dr. Steitz has served as scientific director of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research (1991-2002) and as editorial board member of Genes & Development. She has been honored with many awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Prize and the Wolf Prize, and membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London (Foreign Member).

About the James D. Watson Award
The James D. Watson Award was established by the Board of Trustees of Hope Funds for Cancer Research on December 13, 2013, to recognize discoveries that fundamentally change science and our understanding of life; the types of discoveries made by Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and James Watson. Dr. Watson, in 2014, was the first recipient, for his publication of the double helix structure of DNA, which can be regarded as a turning point in science: human understanding of life was fundamentally changed and the modern era of biology began.

Hope Funds for Cancer Research
Hope Funds for Cancer Research was formed in 2006 to establish a funding vehicle that would take a rational scientific, medical, and investment approach to making grants for the most innovative and promising research efforts to address the most difficult-to-treat cancers, including pancreatic, lung, liver, sarcomas, esophageal, brain, gastric, renal and ovarian cancers, as well as rare leukemias, lymphomas and MDS. These cancers are insidiously aggressive illnesses that kill most of their victims within months, even with aggressive chemotherapy. The Trustees of the Hope Funds for Cancer Research believe that funding young, innovative researchers will lead to breakthroughs in these areas and increase life expectancy for those with these types of cancers. The Hope Funds for Cancer Research is a 509 (a)(1) charity under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service's code.

For additional information about the organization, please visit or call (401) 847-3286.

Hope Funds for Cancer Research: Advancing innovative research in understudied cancers

Hope Funds for Cancer Research is an independent and unaffiliated non-profit organization
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