The 2003 Distinguished Research Career Awardee is Dr. John M. Coffin, American Cancer Society Research Professor of Molecular Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA and Director of the HIV Drug Resistance Program at the National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD.
Over the past thirty years, Dr. Coffin has studied retrovirus genetics and produced numerous important contributions with broad significance to the fields of molecular virology, cancer genetics, gene expression and evolution.
Dr. Coffin's large body of work includes the elucidation of the genetic structure of retroviruses of murine and avian species and mechanism of DNA synthesis and integration, population dynamics. These studies laid the foundation for rapid understanding of human retroviruses in cancer and AIDS patients.
Dr. Coffin's laboratory classified families of endogenous retroviruses in mice and used them as insightful indicators of the evolution of the host-virus association. Their characterization of alterations in genetic structure associated with cancer illuminated the mechanism by which oncogenic retroviruses capture and express oncogenes. This work included development of a cell culture system that proved that efficient packaging of readthrough RNA is a mechanism of oncogene transduction.
This body of work has provided important inroads into understanding the evolution and pathogenesis of retroviruses, including HIV-1. Dr. Coffin's studies on genetic variation in avian and murine retroviruses set the stage for realization of the awesome potential of HIV to evolve many viral variants, including drug-resistant variants, even before the onset of drug treatment. Dr. Coffin's work has important implications to understanding emergence of drug resistant HIV in AIDS patients that fail drug therapy, to cancer biology, and to xenotransplantation. As Director of the HIV Drug Resistance Program at the NCI, Dr. Coffin leads a large research effort to understand how HIV interacts with its host cell, how resistance arises in patients, and provide clues to drug discovery and vaccine development. He commutes between Boston and Frederick on a weekly basis.
Dr. Coffin has been recognized by numerous awards including the American Cancer Society Professorship, and he was NIH Outstanding Investigator award for fourteen years. Dr. Coffin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences one of the highest honors that can be conferred on any scientist in recognition of his many accomplishments. Throughout his career, Dr. Coffin has played a major role in public policy issues and he has held numerous leadership positions and also many editorial posts.
During his two-day visit in April, Dr. Coffin received the Award and commemorative crystal bowl and presented the special lecture "Retrovirus Evolution". Dr. Coffin presented a second chalk talk seminar at the weekly Retro-Lab meeting, which was entitled "Retrovirus Integration". He met with numerous faculty and graduate researchers to discuss their research programs. The visit was sponsored jointly by the Center for Retrovirus Research, Departments of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics, Veterinary Biosciences, the Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology Graduate Program, and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. John Coffin (left) receives Career Award crystal from Dr. Patrick Green
Dr. Coffin during presentation of his distinguished seminar to Center for Retrovirus Research and OSU faculty, students, and staff
Dr. Coffin presents a second lecture at the Retrovirus Center weekly Lab Meeting.