The winners of the Lasker Awards, the top medical prizes given out in the United States, were announced today.
The Laskers, awarded by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, are $250,000 awards generally regarded as good predictors of who will go on to win a Nobel Prize for medicine or chemistry. [ABC News]
The driver of obesity
Douglas Coleman and Jeffrey Friedman took home the prize in the first category, basic medical research. The pair discovered leptin, a hormone that governs body weight and appetite. Its discovery helped to explain parts of obesity that had never been understood.
This year, the most prestigious medical awards in the United States have been given to two stem cell researchers, three cancer researchers, and one New York City mayor. Each year, the three prestigious Lasker Awards are given to those who have made great progress in combatting human disease, and they come with a prize of $250,000 in each category. They are sometimes called “America’s Nobels,” in part because 76 Lasker laureates have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize [USA Today].
The basic medical research prize went to John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka; although their breakthroughs were separated by 50 years, both researchers’ work led to the current technique of turning ordinary skin cells into multipurpose stem cells. Lasker Foundation president Maria Freire explains that Gurdon’s work showed that the nucleus of every cell retains a latent ability to become any other cell type and Yamanaka showed how that capacity can be unleashed…. “These two pieces of research allow us to understand different aspects of stem cells,” she said. “I think it could lead to personalized replacement therapy to fix cells or damaged tissue” [Bloomberg].