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Jan. 24, 2013 Volume 35, No. 16

Mizzou researcher to receive prestigious National Medal of Science in Washington

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Hawthorne Going to Washington M. Frederick Hawthorne came to MU in 2006 because of its science and humanities disciplines, the MU Research Reactor and its biomedicine departments, he said. Courtesy of MU News.


President Obama made the announcement in December

University of Missouri researcher will receive the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for American scientists, on Feb. 1 in Washington, D.C. 

The recipient, M. Frederick Hawthorne, is director of the MU International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine, and Curators Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Radiology.

President Barack Obama named Hawthorne, who’s been at MU since 2006, one of 12 National Medal of Science honorees because of the researcher’s work involving the chemical element boron in fighting cancer. 

“I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” Obama said in a December news release. “They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great, and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”

Hawthorne developed the technique called Boron Neuron Capture Therapy. Cancer cells are injected with boron. Neurons, courtesy of the MU Research Reactor, batter the cancer cells and are absorbed by the boron. The chemical reaction kills the cancer cells. The therapy, which eliminates most of the need for chemotherapy treatment, may be in hospital clinics in five years. 

The technique may also be used to treat arthritis, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, Hawthorne said.

Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said Hawthorne helped advance the university’s national leadership in nanomedicine and cancer research. 

“This acknowledgement by President Obama of Dr. Hawthorne’s work is especially gratifying and well deserved,” Deaton said.

MU’s International Institute of Nano and Molecular Medicine was created largely to facilitate Hawthorne’s research. Besides studies on boron, the institute focuses on applications of nanotechnology in medicine, engineering microscopic motors, inventing methods to store hydrogen fuel and designing materials to store energy. 

Hawthorne was a researcher at the University of California–Los Angeles before coming to MU. He gave three reasons for choosing to come to Columbia.

“First, it is an example of a small number of universities in the United States with a large number of science disciplines and humanities on the same campus,” Hawthorne said.

“Second, the largest university research nuclear reactor is located at MU. Finally, it has very strong, collegial biomedicine departments. This combination is unique.”

Hawthorne will receive his award along with the other recipients at a White House ceremony.