Lasker Awards go to leptin and VEGF discoverers
Two researchers who discovered a hormone intimately linked to obesity and a scientist who found a protein associated to a common form of blindness have won this year’s Lasker awards — the $250,000 prizes that often hint at future Nobel Prize recipients.
Jackson Laboratory’s Douglas Coleman and Rockefeller University’s Jeffrey Friedman took home the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for co-discovering that the hormone leptin helps regulate appetite and body weight. In the 1970s, Coleman first showed that mice have some sort of appetite-suppressing substance in the blood, which Friedman later identified and called leptin, in 1994. (For a review by Friedman into therapeutic avenues of obesity research, click here.)
This year’s Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award was awarded to Genentech molecular biologist Napoleone Ferrara, who discovered how to block the protein VEGF inhibitors to prevent vision loss in people suffering from wet macular degeneration. Roche-Genentech now markets a drug called Lucentis, which has been the focus on some controversy. (For a review by Ferrara into the VEGF receptors, click here.)
David Weatherall, a retired medical geneticist from the University of Oxford, was also honored with the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science for 50 years of “international statesmanship in biomedical science,” including discoveries into the genetic blood disorder thalassemia.
To find out why the Lasker Awards are a lot like papal portraiture, check out this commentary written last year by the chair of the Lasker Awards Jury, Joseph Goldstein.
SOURCE: Spoonful of Medicine
MORE on VEGF by LaNCE: