Joan A. Steitz, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at the School of Medicine at Yale University, New Haven, Conn., is the first woman ever to win the 118-year-old Warren Prize, presented every three years by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Steitz, 48, will share the 1989 prize with the 1989 Nobel laureate in chemistry, Thomas R. Cech, professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado. Prize winners receive a plaque and $2,500.

Steitz, an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Laboratory, received the Warren Prize for her work on the structure and function of ribonucleic acid (RNA). Through her research, she determined that certain RNA components - small nuclear ribonucleoproteins, or "snRNPs" - serve a variety of functions within the cell. The most important function of these clusters of proteins is to moderate gene expression, the process through which cells turn genes on and off. Further research on...

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