Dr. Mary Estes, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, will receive the 2010 American Gastroenterological Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the group's highest recognition for an individual currently working in the field, during Digestive Disease Week May 1-5 in New Orleans.

Estes is also director of the Texas Medical Center Digestive Disease Center, with a membership of 129 and more than $14.7 million in digestive-diseases-related funding, and co-director of the Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine program at BCM. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

"This award from a primarily clinical society is a very high honor and an example of the achievements that can be accomplished by effective interactions between basic scientists and clinicians interested in research," said Estes.

She focuses her research on gastrointestinal pathogens, including rotavirus and human caliciviruses (which included the Norwalk or cruise ship virus) virus-host interactions, pathogenesis and immunity. Her lab was the first to clone and sequence the genetic code of the Norwalk virus, a feat that enabled advanced work on the pathogen that affects schools, nursing homes and other areas in which people live in close proximity.

Estes' interests include developing methods of preventing these virus infections as well as understanding how the viruses invade human cells and cause disease. Her educational interests focus on training young scientists in the laboratory and in translational medicine.