University of Alabama Team Earns HudsonAlpha Innovation Prize
Tuscaloosa-based professors receive inaugural award
Pictured left to right: Lonnie McMillian, chairman of the HudsonAlpha board of directors; Dr. Kim Caldwell, co-recipient HudsonAlpha Innovation Prize; Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; Dr. Guy Caldwell, co-recipient HudsonAlpha Innovation Prize; Jim Hudson, president of HudsonAlpha.
For their groundbreaking research on diseases of the nervous system, especially in relation to Parkinson’s disease, the husband and wife team of Drs. Guy and Kim Caldwell has been awarded the first HudsonAlpha Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Life Sciences.
The $20,000 prize, in addition to recognizing exceptional talent and research of superior merit, aims to raise awareness of biotechnology’s burgeoning impact on Alabama’s economic vitality.
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology President Jim Hudson made the announcement during the institute’s grand opening and dedication ceremonies held today. “Competition for the prize was intense,” noted Hudson, “and the high quality of submissions reflects an overall high quality of work occurring on the campuses of Alabama’s public research universities.”
“To us, HudsonAlpha embodies what Jim Hudson’s entire career has represented; a rare combination of innovation, entrepreneurship, generosity toward the community and outstanding science,” said Guy Caldwell. “To be the very first honorees of the institute prize in the context of this vision is a great honor and deeply satisfying since we strive to embrace these same values in our own careers.”
Speaking for the evaluation team, Dr. Sam McManus, chairman of the HudsonAlpha Innovation Prize committee, stated that the Caldwell team has successfully applied genomic screening by RNAi in conjunction with biological assays for protein misfolding and neurodegeneration, to uncover the largest reported, functionally defined set of genes that protects dopamine neurons from dying during aging. “These studies directly apply to Parkinson’s disease,” he said. Two products are in development as a result of the Caldwell’s work.
Kim Caldwell added that the HudsonAlpha Institute model to speed innovation through collaborations between academia and industry is on-target with the vision held by her and her husband. “We are truly honored to be considered ambassadors of that mission in this state.”
McManus noted the committee received its recommendations from a distinguished and impartial group of scientists who reside outside the state and who have no connections to participating universities.
Dr. Robert Witt, president of The University of Alabama, remarked, "I am pleased to congratulate Guy and Kim Caldwell on winning the first HudsonAlpha Prize. The Caldwells' exceptional work on neurological disorders serves the prize goal of raising awareness of the significance of biotechnology research in Alabama and provides a fine example of how innovative research can translate into practical application, mitigation of human suffering and marketplace opportunities."
Presidents of Alabama’s six public research universities could nominate up to two teams or individual candidates from their respective institutions. All six research universities -- Alabama A & M University, Auburn University, The University of Alabama, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of South Alabama— provided nominations.
Funding for the annual HudsonAlpha Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Life Sciences is provided through a grant by the Alpha Foundation.