BPA investigators win Gabbay Award

Scientists lauded for identifying the cellular effects of bisphenol in plastics

Patricia Hunt, Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana Soto

This year’s Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award goes to three researchers, Drs. Patricia Hunt, Ana Soto and Carlos Sonnenschein, who have dedicated decades to researching and identifying the effects of BPA in plastics on mamalian cells. The honoree will give their prize talks tomorrow, Oct. 22, in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, Goldfarb Library.

The potential dangers of BPA -- bisphenol A -- now cannot be disputed. More and more research shows effects of the estrogen-mimicking chemical that is frequently used in such items as plastic bottles, aluminum can linings, heat-activated register receipts and even some dental sealants.

In 2008, in an FDA report on BPA, the National Toxicology Program expressed "concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.” In July of this year the FDA announced that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups will no longer be allowed to contain BPA.

According to a New York Times report, a study of over 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent of them had BPA in their urine. Traces have also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood.

The Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine is given to scientists in academia, medicine, or industry whose work had outstanding scientific content and significant practical consequences in the biomedical sciences. The award consists of a $15,000 cash prize (to be shared in the case of multiple winners) and a medallion. Recipients travel to Brandeis University in the fall of each year to present a lecture on their work. It is followed by a dinner at which the formal presentation takes place.

The winners are:

  • Dr. Patricia Hunt, an internationally renowned geneticist, and a professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University. Her talk is titled:  "Making a Perfect Egg: How Age and the Environment Affect Our Reproductive Health"
  • Dr. Ana Soto, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Tufts University School of Medicine. Her talk is titled: "BPA exposure, Development and Cancer"
  • Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Tufts University School of Medicine.  His talk is titled: "Social Impact of Scientific Discoveries: The Case of Endocrine Disruptors"

The Gabbay Awards were established in 1998, when the trustees of the Jacob and Louise Gabbay Foundation decided to create a new award in basic and applied biomedical sciences.

Nominations are solicited from selected scientists in industry and academia. A panel of distinguished researchers representing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as universities and schools of medicine, are assembled to consider nominations.

Because of their long association with Brandeis University, the trustees asked the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center at Brandeis to administer the award. 

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