September 18, 2005
Father of Stem-Cell research and pioneers in gene detection and DNA fingerprinting
To receive Lasker Awards for Medical Research
Leading advocate for Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Honored with Public Service Award
NEW YORK, Sunday, September 18, 2005 The 2005 Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards were announced today. Now celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Lasker Awards are the nations most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research, as well as public service on behalf of the medical research enterprise. The Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research will be presented to two scientists who discovered the first stem cell, a stem cell in the blood-forming system. Their work laid the foundation for all current work on adult and embryonic stem cells and transformed the study of blood-cell specialization from a field of observational science to a quantitative experimental discipline. In addition to catalyzing advances in stem-cell biology, the discoveries explained the basis of bone marrow transplantation, a procedure that prolongs the lives of people with leukemia and other blood-cell cancers.
The Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research goes to two scientists who revolutionized human genetics and forensic science in two related breakthroughs. The first was a technique, called Southern blotting, that allows detection of a single gene in a complex genome, eventually enabling the rapid sequencing of entire genomes. This advance fostered the second breakthroughgenetic fingerprintingwhich has led to astounding progress in solving both new and old crimes, settling paternity and immigration disputes, and diagnosing and understanding inherited diseases, as well as confronting a myriad of other sociological, medical, and scientific challenges.
The Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service, awarded bi-annually, honors a tireless advocate in the battle against breast cancer.
Often called Americas Nobels, the Lasker Awards have honored 70 scientists who subsequently went on to receive the Nobel Prize, including 19 in the last 15 years.
The Awards will be presented at a luncheon ceremony on Friday, September 23rd at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will be the keynote speaker; she serves on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
The 2005 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research will be shared by Ernest McCulloch and James Till of the Ontario Cancer Institute and the University of Toronto (Canada) for ingenious experiments that first identified a stem cella blood-forming stem cellwhich set the stage for all current research on adult and embryonic stem cells.
The 2005 Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research will be presented to Edwin Southern of the University of Oxford (UK) and Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester (UK) for development of two powerful technologiesSouthern hybridization and DNA fingerprintingthat together revolutionized human genetics and forensic diagnostics.
The 2005 Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service honors Nancy G. Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for creating one of the world's great foundations devoted to curing breast cancer and dramatically increasing public awareness about this devastating disease.
Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein, recipient of the 1985 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1985 (both with Michael S. Brown) for discoveries regarding cholesterol, is Chairman of the international jury of researchers that selects recipients of the Lasker Awards. He explained the significance of this years Basic Research and Clinical Research Awards with the following comments:
Occasionally scientists take special note of an observation or interpret it in a novel way. These "eureka moments" can profoundly alter the course of scientific progress. This years Lasker Awards honor three such achievements.
The Lasker Basic Research Award honors two individuals who uncovered the first stem cell, thus laying the groundwork for the entire field of stem cell biology. Although the notion of self-renewing cells that could mature and specialize in multiple ways had been floating around for decades, no one had ever found them. By properly interpreting and then analyzing an observation that easily could have been overlooked, the awardees showed that stem cells indeed existed in the blood-forming system. They devised a series of clever and rigorous tests that established an experimental prototype for demonstrating the existence of stem cells and a system for studying the factors that send those stem cells down different developmental paths. Their work revealed that molecules within cells as well as in the tissue environment can influence a cell's fate, an insight that has had a dramatic impact on multiple areas of medical science. Till and McCulloch's findings not only built the foundation of all stem cell research today, but gave scientists who were working on human bone marrow transplantation in the early 1960s the inspiration to continue by revealing why the technique replenishes cells of the blood system.
The Lasker Clinical Research Award honors two investigators who transformed human genetic analysis. Their work eventually led to the mapping of the human genome. Edwin Southern invented a method for detecting subtle DNA differences among individuals and Alec Jeffreys exploited this technique, developing a way to distinguish all humansexcept for those who are genetically identicalfrom each other. Southern's "eureka moment" came when he noticed how porous the agarose gels were that scientists use for separating DNA fragments of different size. Immediately, he realized that he could harness this property to transfer DNA from the gels to a filter. This advance sparked rapid progress in genetic analysis because suddenly scientists could search for sequences of interest on an easily manipulated solid membrane. Within several years of the development of this technique, scientists were exploiting it for many purposes. They employed it, for example, to pinpoint mutations associated with inherited diseases, an endeavor that has allowed for prenatal diagnosis of diseases such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
"Alec Jeffreys, interested in uncovering genetic variation in different populations, put Southern's "blot" to work in numerous ways. One project involved analyzing repeated DNA segments carried by all humans. At 9:05 a.m. on Monday, September 10, 1984, he took one of his Southern blots out of the developing tank and noticed something thrilling. The pattern of the repeated stretches varied from person to personand it generated a unique genetic "fingerprint" of an individual. Furthermore, the patterns were passed on from parent to child, so each child carries half of each parent's fingerprint. By the end of the day, he was making a list of applications for his finding; he realized that it could be used for forensics, in transplant biology, to establish family relationships, and for a multitude of other human and non-human problems. Since then, his predictions about the utility of the method not only have been borne out, but have been surpassed."
Dr. Daniel Koshland, recipient of the 1998 Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, is Chairman of the Selection Committee for the Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service in Support of Medical Research and the Health Sciences. He offered this comment on the 2005 Awardee:
"The Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award honors Nancy G. Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Brinker has devoted her life to fulfilling a pledge to her dying sister to raise public awareness about breast cancer, promote its early diagnosis and effective treatment, and increase medical research to achieve its eventual eradication. Brinker built a world-class foundation designed to meet those goals.
Soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Komen Foundation has more than 100 Affiliates in the U.S. and abroad, and has raised $750 million in support of research, education, screening and treatment to support people faced with a breast cancer diagnosis. Because of Brinkers leadership, the topic of breast canceronce discussed only in whispersis now fully in the open, helping alleviate pain and isolation for hundreds of thousands of people, as well as saving lives. Brinker's own encounter with breast cancer stands as a model for confronting the disease with aggressive treatment and ultimate success."
The Lasker Awards, first presented in 1946, are administered by the Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation. The late Mary Lasker is widely recognized for her singular contribution to the growth of the National Institutes of Health and her unflagging commitment to government funding of medical research in the hope of curing devastating diseases. Her support for medical research spanned five decades, during which she was the nations foremost citizenactivist on behalf of medical science.
Lasker Award recipients receive a citation highlighting their achievements, and an inscribed statuette of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundations traditional symbol representing humanitys victory over disability, disease, and death. Recipients of the Lasker Awards for Basic and Clinical Medical Research also receive an honorarium.
Press materials available from www.laskerfoundation.org
Contemporary interviews (posted in October)
Information about past Awardees, including those who have received the Nobel Prize
Links to Web sites for additional information
To arrange interviews, contact the Lasker Foundations public relations counsel: Kendall Christiansen - 212.686.4551x.17 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW: Illustrated time-line of the Lasker Awards 60-year history.
NEW for broadcast media: A professional quality DVD-video is available, with original material available upon request, explaining the work the 2005 Lasker Award recipients; includes rich resources, interviews and animations. The NTSC DVD will run in all compatible DVD players and on most computers. [This Neil Patterson Productions DVD was made possible by a grant from Thomson Scientific and Healthcare.]
ALBERT LASKER AWARD FOR BASIC MEDICAL RESEARCH
For ingenious experiments that first identified a stem cell - the blood-forming stem cell which set the stage for all current research on adult and embryonic stem cells.
ERNEST A. MCCULLOCH
University Professor Emeritus
University of Toronto
and Senior Scientist
Ontario Cancer Institute
at Princess Margaret Hospital
JAMES E. TILL
University Professor Emeritus
University of Toronto
and Senior Scientist
Ontario Cancer Institute
at Princess Margaret Hospital
ALBERT LASKER AWARD FOR CLINICAL MEDICAL RESEARCH
For development of two powerful technologies Southern hybridization and DNA fingerprinting that together revolutionized human genetics and forensic diagnostics.
SIR EDWIN SOUTHERN
Whitley Professor of Biochemistry
Department of Biochemistry
University of Oxford
SIR ALEC JEFFREYS
Royal Society Wolfson Research Professor
Department of Genetics
University of Leicester
|MARY WOODARD LASKER AWARD FOR PUBLIC SERVICE IN SUPPORT OF MEDICAL RESEARCH AND THE HEALTH SCIENCES
For creating one of the world's great foundations devoted to curing breast cancer and dramatically increasing public awareness about this devastating disease.
|NANCY G. BRINKER
Founder: Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
The Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service
Presented to: Nancy G. Brinker
|For creating one of the world's great foundations devoted to curing breast cancer and dramatically increasing public awareness about this devastating disease.
The 2005 Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service in Support of Medical Research and the Health Sciences honors an advocate who has created one of the world's great foundations devoted to fighting breast cancer and dramatically increased public awareness about this devastating disease. In fulfilling a promise to her dying sister Susan G. Komen, Nancy Brinker has improved the plight of breast cancer patients across the globe. Her work has stripped the cloak of secrecy from a disease that strikes more than a million people annually. The organization she built, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, boasts more than 75,000 volunteers and has raised $750 million to support breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have recognized Brinker's acumen and achievements, appointing her to various cancer advisory boards and committees. In 2001, President Bush appointed her to serve as U. S. Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary, where she continued her breast cancer and women's health advocacy abroad. By personal example, Brinker has demonstrated a successful encounter with breast cancer and by speaking out in various forums, she has nurtured the grassroots breast cancer advocacy movement that she launched.
Brinker's sister, Suzy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977, when public knowledge about the illness barely existed, fear ran rampant, and medical options were few. Despite surgery, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy, her disease spread, killing her in 1980 when she was 36 years old. Before she died, Suzy asked her sister to do something so that others would not suffer as she had. After Suzy's death, Brinker took up the crusade to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.
Brinker started on her mission with a few close friends and some vague ideas. In the early 1980s, no one talked about breast cancer in private, much less in public. People, especially potential corporate donors, hesitated to help. This environment of silence made raising money difficult and fed the isolation and desperation that individuals felt when confronting breast cancer. Brinker wanted to make a cultural and a clinical change, bringing the disease into the open, sparking research, and improving patient care. She started the Komen Foundation in 1982 with $200 and a shoebox filled with names of people who might help in some way.
Now, 23 years later, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has grown into an international organization as well as the nation's largest private funder of breast cancer research and community outreach programs. It has awarded more than 1,100 grants for breast cancer research and funded community-based screening, treatment, and education programs for the medically underserved, focusing on programs that address unmet breast health needs in more than 15,000 communities. It supports activities in 23 countries, funds research grants in eight countries, and has developed educational materials in 14 languages. The Komen Foundation hosts online message boards and forums, and a national toll-free breast care helpline to answer questions, boost morale, and inform people about local resources. Brinker conceived of the Komen Race for the Cure® Series, which fosters awareness about breast cancer and raises money to combat the disease. This event celebrates breast cancer survivors and empowers women to take charge of their breast health. Komen Race participants have grown in number from 800 at the first race in 1983 to more than 1 million in
Since her sister's death, Nancy Brinker not only has established a worldwide source of information, support, and funding, but has faced her own breast cancer diagnosis in 1984. With determination to provide an example of survivorship by fully participating in her own treatment decisions, she fought the disease and served as a symbol to many who have grappled with the realities of breast cancer. As a survivor, she has used her own experience to enhance understanding of breast cancer, and has contributed immeasurably to the international grassroots effort to eradicate the disease.
In addition to her work with the Komen Foundation, Brinker has spoken out about the importance of patients' rights and medical advances in the area of breast cancer research and treatment and has advocated women's health issues in congressional hearings. She has taken leadership roles in numerous private and public organizations, and has testified before the United States Democratic Policy Committee's Congressional Breast Cancer Forum. She has received numerous awards from a wide range of organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and American Society of Clinical Oncologists.
Nancy Brinker transformed an issue that was not mentioned in polite conversation into an international discussion. The loss of her sister, compounded by her own breast cancer diagnosis, instilled her with powerful knowledge and motivation. She created an advocacy movement where none existed before, building a world-class organization with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and spawning a global effort aimed at wiping out this ruinous illness.
CONTACT: Kendall Christiansen
Geto & de Milly, Inc.
212.686.4551; cell: 917.359.0725