Laskers Go to Immunologists, Developers of Breast Cancer Therapy
Laskers Go to Immunologists, Developers of Breast Cancer Therapy

Laskers Go to Immunologists, Developers of Breast Cancer Therapy

The 2019 Lasker medical and research awards celebrate advances in scientists’ understanding of T and B cells, Herceptin antibodies for treating breast cancer, and vaccine coverage around the globe.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Sep 10, 2019

ABOVE: A nurse vaccinates a baby at the Ngbaka health center in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has awarded immunologist Jacques Miller of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, and his collaborator Max Cooper of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, the $250,000 prize for basic medical research for their work identifying T and B cells in the middle of the 20th century. It was “a monumental achievement that provided the organizing principle of the adaptive immune system and launched the course of modern immunology,” according to the announcement.

The 2019 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award goes to H. Michael Shepard, formerly of Genentech, Dennis Slamon of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Axel Ullrich of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and formerly of Genentech for the development of a monoclonal antibody therapy called Herceptin that has saved the lives of countless women with breast cancer. Shepard and Ullrich identified the HER2 gene, which encodes a protein that Slamon showed is overproduced in some breast cancers. While at Genentech, Shepard and Ullrich developed Herceptin to target the HER2 protein.

See “Research: Synergy Spawns Success For Breast Cancer Research Team

The Lasker Foundation also honors Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, with its Bloomberg Public Service Award for the Geneva-based non-governmental organization’s efforts to provide children in low- and middle-income countries with access to life-saving vaccines. The organization has helped vaccinate 760 million children in 73 countries, Nature reports. Each of these prizes also shares a $250,000 reward.

Jef Akst is the managing editor of The Scientist. Email her at