In memory of Prof. Edward Korn – laureate of the Nencki Award

It is with a heavy heart to inform about the passing of Dr. Edward D. Korn, the 2012 laureate of the Nencki Award, who died peacefully on March 31, 2024 at age 95.

Dr. Korn, the pioneer in studies on cytoskeletal proteins, was affiliated since 1954 till 2023 with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, USA, where for almost five decades he was heading the Laboratory of Cell Biology. He also served as Scientific Director of the NHLBI Division of Intramural Research from 1989 to 1999. To honor his input into the NHLBI development, the Edward D. Korn fellowship was established in 2018 to support outstanding NHLBI postbaccalaureate fellows for their Ph.D. training through an affiliated NIH Graduate Partnership Program.

Among his major achievements were discovery of single-headed, non-filamentous myosins (unconventional ones) and the regulation of non­muscle myosins by heavy chain phosphorylation. These seminal discoveries, now considered by Nature as milestones in the cytoskeleton research, earned him many awards and distinctions including election into the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1990 and the NIH Merit Award in 2001. He co-authored over 400 papers which were cited nearly 23,000 times; the last one on history of discovery of first unconventional myosin was published in November 2023.

Dr. Korn’s ties with the Nencki Institute started in 1981 and lasted till his official retirement in 2019 as his laboratory hosted six Nencki Institute graduates for their post-doctoral training. They were (in alphabetical order): Dr. Hanna Brzeska (who worked with him since 1985 till his retirement), Prof. Jacek Kuźnicki (1981-1984), Dr. Dorota Kulesza-Lipka (1989-1993), Dr. Małgorzata Mossakowska (1993-1995), Prof. Maria Jolanta Rędowicz (1992-1998) and Prof. Joanna Szczepanowska (1995-2000). Also, Prof. Andrzej Sobota spent there a year in 1996 for a sabbatical. For giving all of them a platform for a development of their successful careers, he was granted in 2012 the Nencki Award. His visit in the Institute was the opportunity not only for his reunion with his former postdocs but also for the excellent lecture of the Awardee on his discoveries. He was very proud of receiving this Award, this information has been placed next to the information about his NAS membership in the NIH obituary.

According to Dr. Korn’s co-workers and collaborators, he was certainly one of cell biology giants, a great example of a biochemist who defined a biological system and worked to understand how it worked in detail. He was considered by many as the Father of cytoskeletal research. His passing truly signifies the end of an era.

Date of publication
17 May 2024