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Poland-US Science Award for research on RNA structure

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World-renowned scientists – Prof. Ryszard Kierzek from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznan and Prof. Douglas H. Turner from the University of Rochester – are the winners of the 2016 edition of the Poland – U.S. Science Award. The award is granted jointly by the Foundation for Polish Science, the biggest private institution supporting science in Poland, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific association.

The award is presented to a pair of scientists, one working in Poland and one in the United States, for outstanding scientific achievements resulting from their collaboration. This award highlights the role of Polish American scientific cooperation. It shows that the outcomes of this cooperation are great scientific achievements, which result from complimentary work on the part of both scientists. Their shared achievements would have been impossible had they worked separately. "We hope that the successes of our laureates become an inspiration for conducting joint scientific investigations for other researchers," said Prof. Maciej Zylicz, President of the Foundation for Polish Science.

Professors Kierzek and Turner are being recognized for the research on thermodynamics, biology and structure of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and RNA chemical synthesis. The researchers started their cooperation more than 30 years ago. Because of their scientific work, it has become possible to predict the structure of any RNA based on its sequence. Their research also elucidated RNA folding rules and the use of modified oligonucleotides to modulate biological activity of photogenic RNAs. Just one of the applications of this new knowledge is inhibiting the growth of the influenza virus.

Since the onset of Prof. Kierzek and Prof. Turner's work, the thermodynamics and structure of RNA has had a great influence on the scientific community, especially on biochemists and biologists. Their collaboration has been hugely fruitful, with more than 60 joint publications, all with numerous citations.

Prof. Ryszard Kierzek graduated with a degree in chemistry at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. He obtained his Ph.D. in 1978 at the Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at City of Hope National Medical Center and research fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder, as well as acting as a visiting professor at the University of Rochester. Presently, he is the head of RNA Chemistry and Biology Laboratory at the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznan. In his research he uses the chemistry, biology, thermodynamics, bioinformatics and structure of RNA to modulate biological activity of RNA correlated with human diseases. He has published 150 scientific articles, which have been cited more than 6,000 times. He is a laureate of the Foundation for Polish Science MISTRZ award.

Prof. Douglas H. Turner studied chemistry at Harvard University. He obtained his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Columbia University. After his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley, he became a professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester, and works there to this day. Prof. Turner is an internationally acclaimed expert on biophysics of RNA, especially in RNA thermodynamics. The parameters he developed, known as "Turner Rules," allow for the prediction of RNA folding. He has published more than 230 scientific articles, cited more 15,000 times.

The Poland – U.S. Science Award was established in 2013. It is granted once every two years in a competition based on nominations. A Jury of eminent scientists from Poland and the United States chooses the awardees using the opinions of external experts. Prof. Mariusz Jaskólski of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and Dr. Alexander Wlodawer of the National Cancer Institute, USA, were the first winners of the Poland – U. S. Science Award. The Jaskólski – Wlodawer team received the award for studies in structural biology. This second competition saw 29 nominations.

The awards ceremony will be held in Warsaw on November 15, 2016. Each of the winners will receive the equivalent of five thousand U.S. dollars.

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances, Science Immunology, and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See http://www.aaas.org.

The Foundation for Polish Science was established in 1991. It is a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit institution based in Warsaw, Poland, with the mission of supporting science. It is the largest source of science funding in Poland outside of the state budget. The Foundation awards prizes, stipends, subsidies and grants to leading scientists and research teams, encourages the transfer of scientific achievements to business practice and supports all kinds of initiatives that serve science in Poland. The funding is awarded by way of a competition, where the most important criterion in granting support is scientific excellence. The achievements and output of FNP competition entrants is evaluated by scientists respected in their fields – both Polish and international. The Foundation offers over a dozen diverse programmes for scientists at different stages of their research careers. The motto of FNP is: "Supporting the best, so that they can become even better". http://www.fnp.org.pl/en/

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