2008 Vilcek Prize Recipients

Prize Recipients

2008 Vilcek Dropdown Arrows

The Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science

Inder Verma, Ph.D.

Dr. Inder M. Verma is an American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology in the Laboratory of Genetics at The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California and one of the world's leading authorities on the development and use of engineered viruses for gene therapy. 

Dr. Verma was born in India, received a master's degree from Lucknow University, and a Ph.D. from The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, Israel. After postdoctoral study at MIT in the laboratory of the Nobel laureate David Baltimore, he joined the faculty of The Salk Institute at age 26.

As a young investigator at Salk, Dr. Verma began to focus on cancer.  Dr. Verma's major research interests are oncogenes and tumor suppressors, normal genes whose alteration can cause cancer, and the development of techniques for gene therapy. Dr. Verma and his Salk colleagues pioneered the use of a stripped-down version of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the causative agent of AIDS) to carry genes into defective cells.  By eliminating HIV's ability to replicate (a feat accomplished in the mid 90s), Dr. Verma's group created a vector, or carrier, that is now used worldwide for gene delivery. The genetically engineered virus is used to insert new genes into cells in a test tube; the cells can then be returned to the body, where they produce an essential protein that the body is missing. The absence of such a protein causes disease and it is hoped that delivery of the protein by genetic engineering shall cure the disease. 

Dr. Verma and his colleagues have used this landmark technological development to successfully deliver the clotting factor gene to laboratory animals and to transfer a therapeutic gene to the retinal cells of mice with an inborn deficiency. Dr. Verma's group is also studying two genes implicated in familial breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and recently demonstrated that their action is linked to the cell's division cycle and that BRCA1 regulates gene activity. To date, Dr. Verma has published over 250 papers in scientific journals. 

In another important activity, Dr. Verma helps to build the bioscience field in India. When the field of biotechnology was in its infancy, the Government of India selected Dr. Verma as a member of a task force, made up of scientists of Indian origin, charged with the task to position the country as a leader in the field.  Dr. Verma has traveled to India every year for the past 37 years, where he has lectured on the topic of gene therapy, visited many institutions and advised a number of colleagues, young investigators and students. 

For his many outstanding scientific accomplishments, Dr. Verma has received numerous honors. He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and as a Foreign Fellow to the National Academy of Sciences, India.  Dr. Verma was also elected to the Third World Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.


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The Vilcek Prize in The Arts

Osvaldo Golijov

Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. Born to a piano teacher mother and physician father, Mr. Golijov was surrounded by classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the new tango of Astor Piazzolla. After studying piano at the local conservatory and composition with Gerardo Gandini he moved to Israel, where he studied with Mark Kopytman at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy and immersed himself in the colliding musical traditions of that city. Upon moving to the United States in 1986, Mr. Golijov earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb, and was a fellow at Tanglewood, studying with Oliver Knussen.

In the early 90's Mr. Golijov began to work closely with two string quartets, the St. Lawrence and the Kronos. Both ensembles were the earliest to project Mr. Golijov's volatile and category-defying style in its true, full form, and they continue to perform his music regularly. In 2002, EMI released Yiddishbbuk, a Grammy-nominated CD of Mr. Golijov's chamber music, celebrating ten years of collaboration with the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The Kronos Quartet released three recordings featuring their collaborations with Mr. Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, Caravan, and Nuevo. The premiere of Mr. Golijov's St. Mark Passion took the music world by storm in 2000. Commissioned for the European Music Festival to commemorate the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach's death, the piece featured the Schola Cantorum of Caracas with the Orquesta La Pasión. The CD of this work received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations in 2002. 

For the past seven years Mr. Golijov has been inspired by the voice of Dawn Upshaw, for whom he composed several works, including the Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, the opera Ainadamar, the cycle Ayre, and a number of arrangements of popular songs. Mr. Golijov and Ms. Upshaw premiered Ayre at Zankel Hall and recorded it on a Grammy-nominated CD for Deutsche Grammophon in 2005. In 2006, Deutsche Grammophon released the recording of Ainadamar. The record earned two Grammy awards: for best opera recording and best contemporary composition.

Recently completed projects include Azul, a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony; the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's film Youth Without Youth; Rose of the Winds, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and premiered by them with Yo-Yo Ma, the Silk Road Ensemble and Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting; and Kuai Le (Joy), premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble at the opening of the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai. Future works include a new opera, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera.

Mr. Golijov is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and several other awards. He has been composer-in-residence at the Spoleto USA Festival, the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Music Alive series, Marlboro Music, Ravinia, Ojai, and several other festivals. He was composer-in-residence for the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center and is co-composer-in-residence, together with Marc-Anthony Turnage, at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the next two seasons. Mr. Golijov is Loyola Professor of Music at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.

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