The Pollin Prize, an International Award for Biomedical Research Leading to Improvement in Children's Health, Awarded to Two Investigators for Advances in Fetal and Neonatal Cardiology

Drs. Abraham M. Rudolph and Eric N. Olson Honored for Research in Congenital Heart Disease

Dec 6, 2005


Honoring their pioneering work in fetal and neonatal cardiology, Dr. Eric N. Olson and Dr. Abraham M. Rudolph have been named as the recipients of the fourth annual Pollin Prize for Pediatric Research, an international award for biomedical research leading to improvement in children's health. Their work on the physiology and developmental genetics of the fetal and neonatal heart has led to effective interventions and has laid the groundwork for novel therapies and prevention.

The 2005 Pollin Prize will be presented at an awards ceremony on December 9, 2005 at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Olson is the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where he is also Director of the Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer, and Director of the Nearburg Family Center for Basic Research in Pediatric Oncology. Dr. Rudolph is Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics and Senior Staff Member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

"These two scientists and their far-reaching research have advanced our understanding of the causes of congenital cardiac anomalies and their treatment. Conditions that were once often a death sentence are now effectively treated, and often entirely prevented," says Dr. Herbert Pardes, President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. The heart is the first organ to form and function in the embryo. Abnormalities in heart development result in congenital heart disease, the most common birth defect and the leading noninfectious cause of death in children under the age of one year.

Dr. Rudolph Leibel, chairman of the selection panel that coordinates the administration of the Pollin Prize, says, "It is our intent that the Prize both recognize outstanding and important biomedical research, and encourage others to pursue research that specifically benefits children." Dr. Leibel is Co-Director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, Chief of the Division of Molecular Genetics, and Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is Attending Pediatrician at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian.

Dr. Abraham M. Rudolph contributed importantly to our understanding of the development of the circulatory system during normal fetal and postnatal development. He described factors responsible for the normal post-birth closure of the ductus arteriosus – a blood vessel in the fetus that connects the aorta and the pulmonary artery. Failure of the ductus to close normally after birth is an important cause of respiratory distress in premature infants. Previously, closure of the ductus could be achieved only by surgery. Dr. Rudolph and his colleagues demonstrated that treatment with the drug indomethacin successfully closes the ductus in many of these infants. This therapy is now used worldwide in thousands of infants every year. He also introduced the use of prostaglandin infusions to open the ductus as a palliative technique in infants with serious cardiac malformations.

In addition, Dr. Rudolph pioneered treatments for circulatory disturbances in newborn infants and patients with congenital cardiac lesions; developed techniques for neonatal cardiac catheterization; and introduced the use of radiolabeled microspheres for examining the course and distribution of blood flow in fetal animals. This method has subsequently been used by investigators worldwide to study blood flow – not only in fetal, but also in adult animals.

Dr. Eric N. Olson's research has significantly advanced our understanding of fetal heart development. By identifying the genes that control formation of various parts of the fetal heart, he has extended the possibilities for genetic diagnosis and, ultimately, medical intervention in congenital heart disease.

Using a sophisticated combination of biochemistry and genetics, Dr. Olson and his colleagues discovered a network of genes that directs heart formation in organisms as diverse as fish, fruit flies, and mice. His work with genetically modified mice revealed that the heart is assembled in a modular manner, with each chamber governed by a distinct genetic program. These discoveries have opened up new therapeutic targets for the treatment of heart disease.

Like Dr. Rudolph, Dr. Olson's contributions have impacted not only pediatrics, but also adult medicine – specifically in the area of adult heart failure. Dr. Olson and his associates discovered that biochemical signals controlled by calcium cause pathological enlargement of the heart and heart failure.

Previous winners of the Pollin Prize include, in 2004, Dr. Alfred Sommer for "Vitamin A, The 20-Cent Solution"; in 2003 Drs. Emil Frei, Emil J. Freireich, James F. Holland, and Donald Pinkel for "Development of Curative Treatments for Childhood Leukemia"; and, in 2002, Drs. Norbert Hirschorn, Dilip Mahalanabis, David R. Nalin, and Nathaniel F. Pierce for "Oral Rehydration Therapy."

Dr. Abraham M. Rudolph
Dr. Abraham M. Rudolph received M.B., B.Ch. and M.D. degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and trained in pediatric cardiology and physiology at Children's Hospital, Boston, and Harvard Medical School. In 1960, he became Director of Pediatric Cardiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1966, he was appointed Director of Pediatric Cardiology and Senior Staff Member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, where from 1986-1991 he was Chairman of Pediatrics.

Dr. Rudolph is recognized as a distinguished investigator and educator, and has received many honors, including the E. Mead Johnson and Borden Awards for Research in Pediatrics; the Research Achievement Award, and The Founding Distinguished Scientist Award, of the American Heart Association; the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics; the Joseph St. Geme Leadership Award of the Federation of Pediatric Societies; the Howland Award of the American Pediatric Society; the Arvo Yllppo Award; and the Jonxis Medal. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and former President of the American Pediatric Society. He received the Docteur Honoris Causa degree from the Rene Descartes University in Paris. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the Founders Award of the Section of Cardiology from the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is the editor of Rudolph's Pediatrics and Rudolph's Fundamentals of Pediatrics; and author of Congenital Diseases of the Heart, and more than 400 medical and scientific publications.

Dr. Eric N. Olson
Dr. Eric Olson received a B.A. in chemistry and biology from Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University. In 1984, after a postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine, he joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as an Assistant Professor. There, he became Professor and Chairman in 1991.

Dr. Olson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. His many awards include the Basic Research Prize and Founding Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Heart Association, the Pasarow Foundation Award in Cardiovascular Medicine, and the Outstanding Investigator Prize from the International Society of Heart Research. He has been active on Scientific Advisory Boards for the National Institutes of Health, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Stowers Institute of Medical Research, and on the Scientific Review Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Olson serves on the Editorial Boards of numerous scientific journals and is Editor-in-Chief of Developmental Biology. He also serves as a consultant for Myogen, Inc., a biotechnology company that he co-founded.

Pollin Prize for Pediatric Research
By recognizing outstanding achievement in pediatric biomedical and public health research, and at the same time fostering the work of young investigators, the Pollin Prize seeks to encourage the best scientific minds to address issues of children's health and illness worldwide, according to Irene and Abe Pollin, creators of the prize.

Created in memory of Linda and Kenneth Pollin and administered by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, The Pollin Prize consists of a $100,000 award to the recipients and a $100,000 fellowship stipend to be awarded by the recipients to a young investigator, selected by the recipients, who is working in a related area. The stipend is intended to support a substantial portion of salary and laboratory expenses for two years.

The Pollin family, prominent philanthropists, is perhaps best known as the co-owners of the Washington Wizards basketball team. Irene Pollin, a psychiatric social worker and lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University, created Medical Crisis Counseling in 1980, which treats patients and families coping with chronic illness. She has written several books and articles on crisis counseling and the emotional management of long-term illness. As president and founder of the Linda and Kenneth Pollin Foundation, she serves on a number of national advisory boards and commissions in the fields of mental health and women's health, and is a co-founder and chairperson of the Sister To Sister – Everyone Has A Heart Foundation, an organization whose aim is to increase women's awareness of heart disease and provide free cardiac screenings.

The first Pollin Prize was presented in 2002 to four clinician-scientists, honoring their development of oral rehydration therapy, a water-based solution of glucose and salt that prevents and corrects dehydration due to infectious diarrhea. Subsequent awards have been for the development of chemotherapy of leukemia and the use of vitamin A to prevent illness and death from infectious disease in young children.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital – based in New York City – is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,344 beds. It provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory, and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Allen Pavilion, and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the largest and most comprehensive health-care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education, and community service. It ranks among the top ten in U.S.News & World Report's guide to "America's Best Hospitals," has the greatest number of physicians listed in New York magazine's "Best Doctors" issue, and is included among Solucient's top 15 major teaching hospitals. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System – which includes acute-care and community hospitals, long-term care facilities, ambulatory sites, and specialty institutes – is committed to providing high-quality, cost-effective, and conveniently accessible care to communities throughout the tri-state metropolitan region. The System serves one in four patients in the New York metropolitan area.


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