Pitt Alumnus Bert O’Malley Awarded Ernst Schering Prize

Issue Date: 
February 28, 2011
Bert O'MalleyBert O'Malley

University of Pittsburgh alumnus and Pittsburgh native Bert O’Malley has been awarded the 2011 Ernst Schering Prize for international excellence in medicine and basic biological and chemical research. One of the most prestigious German science honors, the annual prize, which carries a cash award of €50,000, was established by the Ernst Schering Research Foundation in 1991 and is bestowed internationally for particularly outstanding basic research in the fields of medicine, biology, or chemistry.

The prize will be awarded Sept. 20 at an invitation-only ceremony in Berlin. It honors O’Malley’s pioneering work on the actions of steroid hormones and nuclear receptors, as well as his training of more than 250 students and postdoctoral fellows who now serve as professors, deans, and chief executive officers for research centers around the world.

O’Malley, currently the Tom Thompson Distinguished Service Professor and chair of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, helped uncover the workings of estrogen and progesterone and the regulation of eukaryotic gene expression. He described the molecular events that allow hormones to influence genes to make proteins, and discovered “coactivator” and “corepressor” gene regulators that profoundly influence tissue development and physiology.

“This is a significant and much-deserved honor,” said Arthur S. Levine, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. “Dr. O’Malley has made outstanding contributions to our understanding of how hormones work and how their expression is regulated, which is critical to many areas of medicine, including endocrinology and cancer.”

Often called the father of molecular endocrinology, O’Malley grew up in Wilkinsburg, Pa., and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1963. Before joining Baylor in 1973, he held positions at the National Institute of Child Health and Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, and at Vanderbilt University. He completed his clinical residency at Duke University Medical Center.

O’Malley is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and many awards, including the 2007 National Medal of Science. O’Malley has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Microbiology. He has published more than 650 papers and holds 22 patents in the fields of gene regulation, molecular endocrinology, and steroid receptor action.

Established in 2002 by Schering AG, Berlin, the independent nonprofit Ernst Schering Foundation aims to promote science and art with a special focus on the natural sciences and contemporary art. In addition, the Foundation promotes the scientific and cultural education of children and youth and the dialogue between science and society.