Summary

Lasker Award honors research showing how cells from humans and most animals sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability.

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced today that Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator William G. Kaelin, Jr., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Peter J. Ratcliffe of the University of Oxford/Francis Crick Institute, and Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will share the 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.

The Lasker Awards -- considered among the most respected science prizes in the world -- honor visionaries whose insight and perseverance have led to dramatic advances that will prevent disease and prolong life.

The trio of scientists is being honored for their discovery of the pathway by which cells from humans and most animals sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability, a process that is essential for survival. According to the Lasker Foundation announcement, Kaelin, Ratcliffe, and Semenza deciphered the core molecular events that explain how almost all multicellular animals tune their physiology to cope with varying quantities of life-sustaining oxygen, thus exposing a unique signaling scheme. The biological processes that these findings revealed have unearthed possible strategies to rev up or reign in the body’s response to oxygen, possibly leading toward new therapeutics for a wide range of disorders such as anemia, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration, and cancer.

The 2016 Lasker Awards, which carry an honorarium of $250,000 for each category, will be presented on Friday, September 23, in New York City. Including Kaelin, 17 current HHMI investigators have won Lasker Awards, the nation's most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research.

Kaelin has been an HHMI investigator since 1998. His lab is working to understand why mutations affecting tumor-suppressor genes cause cancer. The group’s long-term goal is to lay the foundation for the development of new anticancer therapies that are based on the biochemical functions of specific tumor-suppressor proteins.

Kaelin is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and Associate Director, Basic Science, for the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. He obtained his undergraduate and MD degrees from Duke University and completed his training in internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as chief medical resident. He was a clinical fellow in Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, during which time he was a McDonnell Scholar.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and the National Academy of Medicine. In April 2010, Kaelin was named one of five recipients of the prestigious Canada Gairdner International Award. He is also a recipient of the Paul Marks Prize for cancer research from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Prize from the American Association for Cancer Research.

Founded in 1942, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation envisions a healthier world through the advancement of medical research. It seeks to improve health by accelerating support for medical research through recognition of research excellence, education, and advocacy. For much of the 20th century, the Foundation was led by Mary Lasker, who was America's most prominent citizen-activist for public investment in medical research. She is widely credited with motivating the White House and Congress to greatly expand federal funding for medical research, particularly through the NIH.

Kaelin’s bio is available on the HHMI web site.

Scientist Profiles

For More Information

Jim Keeley 301.215.8858 keeleyj@hhmi.org