The 2011 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, announced today, goes to Franz-Ulrich Hartl of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and Arthur L. Horwich of Yale University School of Medicine for their work on protein folding, which when compromised can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Specifically, the pair identified the cage-like structure known as chaperonin that protects nascent protein from becoming tangled with other proteins as it guides the folding process, ScienceNOW reports.
The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation is also recognizing Tu Youyou of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences with its Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for her discovery of artemisinin, an anti-malarial drug that has “saved millions of lives across the globe, especially in the developing world,” according to the Lasker announcement. Testing some 380 extracts from 200 herbs used as traditional Chinese medicines, Tu discovered that a plant called sweet wormwood contained a substance that could kill the malaria-causing parasite in mice. Today that substance, artemisinin, is commonly used in combination with other malaria treatments as a first-line treatment. (Stay tuned for next month’s feature on how researchers are now engineering yeast to produce an artemisinin precursor.)
Finally, the foundation awards The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health with its Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award “for serving since its inception as a model research hospital—providing innovative therapy and high-quality patient care, treating rare and severe diseases, and producing outstanding physician-scientists whose collective work has set a standard of excellence in biomedical research.”
Each of this year’s recipients will receive a $250,000 honorarium. Their awards will be presented on Friday, 23 September, in New York City. See the Lasker Foundation’s website for videos about the winners.