PITTSBURGH - A molecular biologist who is searching for a cure for malaria is among five people being named Heinz Award winners on Tuesday.
The annual $250,000 prize is given to people who make notable contributions in the arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy and employment.
Dr. Joseph DeRisi invented the ViroChip, a small glass wafer containing some 22,000 DNA sequences from more than 1,300 viral families. It enables scientists to identify existing viruses and detect new ones.
Using the ViroChip, DeRisi and his colleagues at the University of California at San Francisco, have cracked malaria's genetic code, which may lead to drug and vaccine therapy. He gives most of his research and knowledge away for free.
The Pittsburgh-based Heinz Family Foundation has presented the awards since 1994 in memory of Sen. John Heinz III, heir to the Heinz food fortune who died in a 1991 plane crash. The awards will be presented at a private ceremony in Pittsburgh on Oct. 21.
Other recipients this year include:
• Thomas FitzGerald, of Louisville, Ky., won the environment award. FitzGerald is founder and director of the Kentucky Resources Council, which has been dubbed the state's watchdog of the environment.
• Robert Greenstein, of Washington, D.C., won the public policy award. Greenstein is founder and executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzes the impact of federal and state budgets and tax policies on low- and moderate-income people.
• Ann Hamilton, of Columbus, Ohio, won the arts and humanities award. Hamilton is an artist and a professor of art at Ohio State University. Her work has appeared in exhibitions around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
• Brenda Krause Eheart, of Champaign, Ill., won the human condition award. Eheart is founder of both Generations of Hope and Hope Meadows, where foster children, their adoptive parents and seniors live as neighbors.