Back in 1995 my friends mostly humored me when I told them I was planning to live 165 more years and the secret to my success would be connected with future research that would allow me to extend my telomeres. “Tele-what?” they said. “Does that have to do with communications?” This was 10 years after the discovery of telomerase in 1985 by Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider. In 1995, the roles of telomeres and telomerase in cell biology was sometimes thought by scientists to be interesting but mostly thought to be of rather peripheral interest. That is, except for a few visionaries like Michael Fossel who grasped the importance of these topics early-on. Now we know that telomeres and telomerase are of central relevance with respect to cancers, stem cell differentiation and longevity. And of course Telomere shortening is one of the most important theories of aging covered in my Anti-Aging Firewalls treatise.
Today, Rockefeller University announced the winners of the fifth annual Pearl Meister Greengard Prize to Blackburn, Greider and Vicki Lundblad of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The prize is being awarded for the discovery of telomerase and for studies of its regulation. In 2008 Blackburn and Greider , the leading science prize in Germany, for the same work. Greider won the 2007 Dickson Prize in Medicine for her contribution. Blackburn and Greider also received the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences in 2006. The two shared the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize 1n 2007, and with Jack W. Szostak received the Lasker Prize in 2006. The honors and prizes are likely to keep rolling in. It is interesting that it has required more than 20 years for the seminal work of Blackburn and Greider to receive the acknowledgement it deserves. Some of the other advanced longevity research going on today may likewise not be fully acknowledged until 20 or more years from now.