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Biological Chemistry

2008 Lasker Awards Announced

by Linda Wang
September 29, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 39

FIVE INTERNATIONAL scientists received the 2008 Lasker Awards, given by the Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation, at a ceremony on Sept. 26 in New York City.

Each award carries a $300,000 honorarium, shared equally among the recipients of each award, and an inscribed statuette of the Winged Victory of Samothrace. In the past two decades, 27 Lasker Award recipients have subsequently received a Nobel Prize.

Victor R. Ambros, 54, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester; David C. Baulcombe, 56, at the University of Cambridge; and Gary B. Ruvkun, 56, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, will share the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for their roles in the discovery of microRNAs, which are small RNA molecules that regulate gene function. Initially discovered in worms, microRNAs have subsequently been found in many other types of organisms. These molecules revealed an unanticipated role for RNA that scientists now are investigating for therapeutic applications.

The Lasker-DeBakey Award for Clinical Medical Research honors Akira Endo, 74, of Biopharm Research Laboratories, in Tokyo, for the discovery of mevastatin, also called compactin, the first compound in the class of drugs known as statins. Statins reduce the levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) in blood without affecting the levels of "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein). In 1979, Endo showed that mevastatin lowers blood cholesterol in dogs and monkeys. Because of side effects, mevastatin has never been used clinically, but its discovery helped lead to safer cholesterol-control agents.

Stanley Falkow, 74, a microbiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, received the biennial Lasker-Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science. The lifetime achievement award honors his contributions to the understanding of disease-causing microbes, particularly in the area of antibiotic resistance.

Linda Wang compiles this section. Announcements of awards may be sent to


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