Columbia University Medical Center

Joachim Frank Receives Wiley Prize

Joachim Frank received the 2017 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences in April 2017

Joachim Frank (center) received a Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences at a ceremony on April 7. From left: Guenter Blobel (Chair of the Jury), Deborah Wiley (President of the Wiley Foundation), Wayne Hendrickson (Jury Member), and awardees Joachim Frank, Marin van Heel, and Richard Henderson. Photo: Jack Fu.

Joachim Frank, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular biophysics and of biological sciences, received the 16th annual Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences for pioneering developments in electron microscopy that are transforming structural studies of biological molecules and their complexes. He shared the prize with Marin van Heel, PhD, from Leiden University and Richard Henderson, PhD, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K.

Since 2002, the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences has been presented annually to recognize contributions that have opened new fields of research or have advanced concepts in a particular biomedical discipline. Among the prize recipients, six have subsequently received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Electron microscopy makes it possible to capture the image of objects too small to be seen by light microscopes. Viruses, proteins, and even atoms are visible with today’s electron microscopes.

Joachim Frank developed methods that allow researchers to create 3D images of biological molecules

Methods devised by Joachim Frank turn images taken by electron microscopes (left)—of thousands of individual molecules at different angles—into a finely detailed 3-D representation (right). The image on the right is a Cryo-EM density map of the Trypanosome cruzi ribosome at 2.5Å resolution, obtained in Dr. Frank’s lab from 235,000 cryo-EM images. Images: Joachim Frank and Wiley Publishing.

In the late 1970s, Dr. Frank developed techniques that process thousands of 2-D images taken of identical molecules, lying in different orientations, into a single composite 3-D image. These techniques are still employed today by most structural biologists who use electron microscopy.

Dr. Frank also is an HHMI investigator and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2014 he received the Franklin Medal in Life Science given by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.