NEWS RELEASE, 09/21/98

Biochemist and former Science editor Daniel Koshland to receive Special Lasker Award, Sept. 25

By Tamara Keith, Public Affairs

Daniel E. Koshland, Jr., a long-time researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and former editor of Science magazine, will receive the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science on Friday, September 25.

The prestigious Lasker Awards are called "America's Nobels" and many of its recipients have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. This award is presented in honor of Koshland's lifelong contributions to the field of medical science. (Click here for introductory remarks by Joseph L. Goldstein at the Sept. 25 ceremony.)

"It's a good award and I am very pleased," said Koshland, a professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology. "It's nice to know that people think what you did was important."

At 78, Koshland continues to teach and conduct research and serves on the Council for the National Academy of Sciences. This semester he is teaching a freshman seminar called "Does Science Bring Happiness or Simply Technological Advances?"

Koshland, who earned his B.S. from UC Berkeley in 1941, also received the National Medal of Science in 1990.

"Dan Koshland is not only a brilliant scientist but an outstanding leader," said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ after hearing that Koshland would be receiving the Lasker award. "He has contributed more than any individual to the biology program at UC Berkeley."

In the 1980s he headed up a decade long campaign to modernize UC Berkeley's biological sciences. This included combining the campus's 12 small biology departments into three large ones, raising funds for two new biology buildings (including Koshland Hall, which was dedicated in his name in 1992) and completely renovating a third.

"Dan has been an intellectual leader on this campus for decades," said Robert Tjian, chair of the Chancellor's Advisory Council on Biology. "First by example - by doing great research and being an excellent teacher - and second by advising Chancellors Heyman and Tien as the first chair of the Chancellor's Advisory Council on Biology."

Capping his long research career was the decade he served as editor of Science magazine, the country's largest circulation scientific journal publishing primary research across the entire spectrum of the sciences.

"I loved it," said Koshland about his time as editor of Science, from 1985 to 1995. "I did it for ten years and I enjoyed every minute of it."

Koshland made several major changes to while serving as the scholarly publication's editor. Most significantly, he shifted the make-up of its editorial board from writers to scientists with PhDs. This meant that published articles were chosen for their scientific excitement rather than verbal perfection.

When he started as editor Koshland often relied on his friends for article submissions; by the time he left the magazine, nine articles were rejected for each one printed.

He left Science in 1995 to return to his UC Berkeley laboratory, which had fallen to about half capacity during his time as editor.

"I was delighted to get back to the lab," he said.

In his 33 years as a UC Berkeley researcher and professor, Koshland has produced major advances in the understanding of enzymes and protein chemistry. Best known is his "induced fit theory," which postulates that enzymes change shape (like a glove when a hand is shoved into it) as they react with other molecules.

Koshland is currently involved in two research endeavors. He is studying the chemical reactions involved in Alzheimer's disease by analyzing changes in brain cells. He also is looking at how to make better catalysts by modifying enzymes. Specifically he is interested in converting the chlorine in chlorinated compounds like DDT into harmless salts. This could be very helpful with environmental clean-up and waste disposal, he said.

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