The Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research went to three individuals who pioneered the use of mouse embryonic stem cells to create animal models for human disease. The winners, credited as creators of the knockout mouse, are Mario Capecchi, distinguished professor of human genetics and biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Utah, Martin Evans, head of Cardiff School of Biosciences and professor of mammalian genetics at Cardiff University, Wales, and Oliver Smithies, excellence professor in the department of pathology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The collaboration between Smithies and the team of Capecchi and Evans in the late 1980s spurred the development of the first hprt knockout mice. To date more than 4,000 mouse strains owe their existence to this work.
The Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research went to Robert G. Edwards, emeritus professor of human reproduction at the University of Cambridge, whose patience and strength in the face of adversity helped to facilitate the birth of Louise Brown, the first test tube baby, in 1978. Edwards received the award for founding in vitro fertilization and giving new hope to infertile couples worldwide. His discoveries laid the groundwork for innovations such as pre-implantation diagnosis of genetic disorders and opened the door for human embryonic stem cell research.
The Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service went to William H. Foege, presidential distinguished professor, department of International Health, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1966, Foege was running a medical center in West Africa with the directive to inoculate the entire region against smallpox. Unfortunately, smallpox beat the shipment of vaccine. With enough for 7-8 percent of the area's population, Foege designed a strategy by which tactical inoculations isolated the disease and stopped it in its tracks. His plan wiped the disease from West Africa a year and a half ahead of schedule. Later, under the direction of Foege, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed guidelines on how to foil the transmission of AIDS even before HIV was isolated. Before moving on to direct other world health initiatives through the Carter Center and the United Nations, Foege expanded the mission of the CDC to include such health issues as injury, homicide, and suicide.