A Legacy of Discovery

  December 4, 2003

Here’s a proud legacy to pass along: in 1999, David Cushman ’61 was honored with the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Science for his discovery of captopril, the drug now used by millions to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure.

This year, Cushman’s fellow Wabash chemistry major Robert Roeder ’64 will be presented with the 2003 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for his pioneering studies.

Nobel Laureate in Medicine Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein, chairman of the international jury of researchers that selected recipients of the Medical Research Awards explains:

"Roeder opened up the process by which nucleated cells copy DNA into RNA. Because RNA serves as the blueprint for proteins, this reaction—called transcription—underlies virtually all physiological events. It determines which information is retrieved from the DNA and thus dictates how a pancreas cell produces insulin and how red blood cells produce hemoglobin. Roeder’s ability to reproduce transcription in a test tube provided a tool with which he could tease apart the reaction and identify its vital components. His test-tube system allowed him and other scientists to generate enormous insights into the mechanism by which multi-cellular organisms decode the genome."

Roeder’s research has numerous applications in medical science, most notably, perhaps, in advancing scientists’ efforts to understand, treat, and prevent cancer.
A chemistry major/biology minor at Wabash and the son of a Dubois County, Indiana farmer, Roeder now heads the laboratory bearing his name at Rockefeller University in New York. Word of his most recent honor came on the eve of the dedication of the College’s new science building. It’s hard to imagine a better dedication gift for the chemistry and biology departments, or a higher mark of excellence for Wabash students to aim for.