And the Lasker goes to…

It’s that time of the year again. No, this is not about the beginning of Fall season of mind-numbing TV series. Instead, I am talking about the Laskers and Nobels, the fewest of few diligent scientists being awarded for their stellar contributions to Science.

The Lasker Awards are one of the most prestigious awards for excellence in  biomedical research. These awards are given annually by Lasker Foundation, named after Albert Lasker. Albert Lasker was an American Businessman who is sometimes called the founder of advertising.

Lasker foundation awards are considered as sort of a prelude to Nobel Prize, as a number of Lasker awardees have gone on to win Nobel prize subsequently.  Recent examples of this ‘predictive association’ are Elizabeth Blackburn, Jack Szostak and Aaron Ciechanover.

The main awards and their winners for 2010 are:

1. Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award –

The award goes to Douglas Coleman at Jackson Lab. and Jeffery Friedman at Rockefeller University, for their work on the discovery of the hormone leptin. Leptin is a hormone which controls appetite and body weight. It was discovered by studies on obese (ob/ob) mice which arose spontaneously in Jackson Laboratory in Maine in the 60’s.

2. Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award –

To Napoleone Ferrera, at Genentech, for the discovery of VEGF as one of the major factors required for angiogenesis, and development of an effective anti-VEGF therapy for wet macular degeneration

3. Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science –

To David Weatherall at University of Oxford, for 50 years of extraordinary statesmanship in science. Sir David Weatherall has contributed fundamental insights on the genetics of inherited blood-related diseases, especially thalassemias.

A very good summary of their work is presented on Lasker Foundation’s website, alongwith a commentary on Coleman and Friedman’s work in the latest issue of Cell. On the Lasker Foundation website, there are short videos about the scientists’ work, which I found pretty informative and interesting.

Congratulations to all the researchers who did all the outstanding work.

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