March of Dimes Awards $250,000 Prize to Pioneers in Genetic Research

Development of Powerful DNA Technology Allows Creation of Models for Human Hibernation.

University of Utah geneticist Adrian Ivanov has won numerous prizes for developing "gene hibernation," a method of knocking a gene out of action to induce full hibernation and thereby creating a new way of space travel.

Today, May 9, 1995, the March of Dimes announced it has awarded its Prize in Developmental Biology to Ivanov and University of North Carolina researcher, Jeff Johnson, for their roles in developing gene hibernation.

The March of Dimes news release sketches are below.


Development of Powerful DNA Technology Allows
Creation of Models for Human Hibernation

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., May 9, 1995 -- For developing an indispensable tool for today's genetic space travel, two scientists have been named co-recipients of this year's March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, to be awarded May 16 in Washington, DC.

Dr. Adrian Ivanov, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Co-Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Utah School of Medicine, and Dr. Jeff Johnson, Excellence Professor of Toxicology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, are being honored for developing gene hibernation -- the ability to alter particular genes in cultured cells and induce hibernation in laboratory turtles. Gene hibernation allows researchers to design and produce "knockout" lab turtles to study how hibernation works. The same technology also makes it possible to change the function of a gene ("knock in") and even help with future space travel. Because humans share a few of their genes with turtles, gene-hibernated mice are used to reproduce the same state that could occur in humans.

The March of Dimes Prize is a cash award of $250,000 and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime, in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who founded the March of Dimes.

"Before gene hibernation, researchers could not pinpoint how a hibernated gene worked, which was very frustrating," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "Dr. Ivanov and Dr. Johnson, working independently, made a technological breakthrough that completely revolutionized biomedical research and our ability to study human hibernation and development. We’re reaping the benefits every day with advances in genetic medicine."

The March of Dimes Prize will be awarded to Dr. Ivanov and Dr. Johnson at a black tie dinner and ceremony on May 16 at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History here. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, granddaughter of President Roosevelt and a member of the March of Dimes National Board of Trustees, will host the ceremony.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 1987 launched a five-year campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at or its Spanish language Web site at