Two Appointed to Named Chairs

Photograph: James L. Manley.
Photograph: Carol L. Prives.

James L. Manley, a molecular biologist researching how genetic information is expressed to create living tissue, has been named Julian Clarence Levi Professor of the Life Sciences at Columbia. He is chairman of the department of biological sciences.

Manley has researched how genetic information is transmitted from DNA, which tells the cell how to form, to RNA, which takes that information to the cell.

Manley has studied several aspects of the process of the transfer for genetic information, including how and why RNA molecules, known as messenger RNA or mRNA, are created at certain times and not others, and how introns, portions of the RNA chains that code no known genetic information, are spliced out during production of the mRNA.

These activities in the nucleus of the cell require a number of complex proteins, such as the enzyme RNA polymerase, which assembles the nucleotide chains from the right spot on the DNA template. Manley's goal has been to identify and isolate these factors and then to understand how they can be controlled to regulate gene expression.

Born in Minneapolis, Manley received the B.S. degree in biology from Columbia and the Ph.D. in molecular biology from SUNY-Stony Brook.

Manley conducted his doctoral research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and was a postdoctoral research associate at M.I.T. from 1977 to 1980.

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1980 as assistant professor of biological sciences and was named professor in 1987. He was a member of the American Cancer Society's Microbiology and Virology Committee from 1988 to 1991 and of the National Institutes of Health's Molecular Biology Study Section from 1989 to 1993. He lists 140 journal publications.

Carol L. Prives, a virologist who has made major contributions to understanding the molecular biology of cancer, has been named Da Costa Professor of Biology. She was appointed associate professor at Columbia in 1979 and professor in 1987.

Prives strives to understand the process that results in disordered cell growth, now thought to begin as a result of changes in a cell's DNA. Such mutations are caused by factors such as chemical carcinogens, irradiation and viruses. In the last half-dozen years, scientists have discovered that a particular human gene, p53, suppresses tumors by preventing the stabilization of damaged DNA. About half of all cancer patients show mutations in this important gene, and biomedical researchers believe such mutations both remove a mechanism that protects the body against cancer and add a cancer-causing one. Science magazine noted the advances by naming p53 its "Molecule of the Year" for 1993.

Prives considers research on the protein manufactured by the p53 gene, in both its normal and mutant variants, vital to understanding the process that results in disordered cell growth. The Columbia virologist is examining how DNA binding in the mutant p53 protein differs from the normal protein and whether normal binding could be restored to mutant proteins. Her research team is also testing the important hypothesis.

Born in Montreal, Prives received both the B.Sc. degree, first class honors, and the Ph.D., both in biochemistry, from McGill University.

In 1968, she took a postdoctoral appointment at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and followed that work in 1971 with a senior postdoctoral appointment in biochemistry at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. She served as assistant professor, then associate professor, at the institute from 1974 to 1982.

Columbia University Record -- December 8, 1995 -- Vol. 21, No. 12