Professor Wacław Szybalski receives honorary degree:

In 1962 the landmark discovery for the future of the molecular biology and medicine has been made. At McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, Dr Wacław Szybalski and Dr Elizabeth Szybalska have performed the ingenious experiment. Having the cells devoid of the activity of hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl transferase (HPRT), which are not able to grow in the HAT medium (developed by Dr. Szybalski, and later used for the generation of monoclocal antibiodies as well!), they decided to add to such cells the DNA isolated from the normal counterparts. The idea was that the HPRT gene (neither identified nor sequenced at that time, as any other gene…) will be introduced into the mutant cells and will allow them to synthesize nucleotides. The impossible became reality… The very few of such treated cells indeed started to grow in the HAT medium. The paper has been published in PNAS (link) and in the same year Prof. Szybalski has proposed that such an approach – an introduction of the correct genes into the cells –  could  be used for therapeutic purposes. Hence he coined the term “gene therapy”….

50 years after that ground-breaking discovery, the gene therapy is becoming reality. The successful  treatment of children with immunodeficiencies or inherited forms of blindness has been undoubtedly demonstrated in clinical trials. Numerous approaches are tested for other diseases, and although a number of obstacles remains, the chances for future success are not the dreams only. Moreover, the gene transfer technology, which Szybalskis’ experiments demonstrated to be possible, has become the everyday tools for molecular biologists and we find numerous applications of them. New potential candidates for future therapies, such as induced pluripotent stem cells (photo on the left) have been recently developed thanks to the gene transfer to mammalian cells.

To celebrate the contribution of prof. Wacław Szybalski to science and humanity (see also his CV further at this website and related links) we are organizing this event, which is held under  the auspices of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU) . The meeting will be held in Krakow on 28 and 29th September 2012. The achievements and life of Prof. Szybalski will be presented by his students and co-workers and the lectures will be given by the foreign and Polish scientists involved in the gene therapy field. We do hope to have among us personally professor Wacław Szybalski!

Please come and join us at this exceptional gathering to taste the incredible past, presence and fascinating future of genetic technology.

The Organizing Committee