The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced five winners of its coveted annual awards today (September 28), and the awardees were honored in an online celebration on the foundation’s website. The awards, which highlight major developments or findings in biomedical, clinical, and public health research, come with a $250,000 honorarium—and Lasker winners often go on to win Nobel Prizes as well.
The Basic Medical Research Award went to Richard Hynes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Erkki Ruoslahti of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and Timothy Springer of the Harvard Medical Institute for their work on integrins: proteins that bind cells to the extracellular matrix. The research of all three scientists collectively “launched the field of integrin research,” according to the Lasker Foundation’s announcement. Their work got the ball rolling on anti-inflammatory drugs known as anti-integrins for autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Yuk Ming Dennis Lo, a molecular biologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Research Award for developing a new technique for prenatal screening. The noninvasive tests use cell-free DNA in maternal blood to detect Down syndrome with almost 99 percent accuracy. Noninvasive prenatal tests lower the risk of miscarriage compared with tests based on amniocentesis; since the launch of Lo’s test in 2011, they have become widely used across the globe not only for Down syndrome, but also trisomies and sex chromosome imbalances, the announcement states.
See “Written in Blood”
This year’s Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award honors Lauren Gardner of Johns Hopkins University for leading the creation of the COVID-19 dashboard, which “set a new standard for disseminating authoritative public health data in real time,” according to the foundation’s announcement. The dashboard became a valuable resource for modeling the spread of the disease, as well as for policy-making and individual risk assessment.