Joseph Goldstein, Chairman, Lasker Jury; Ronald Vale; Michael Sheetz; James Spudich; Al Sommer, Chairman, Lasker Foundation

New York, NY

Since 2008, The International Retinal Research Foundation has been a supporter of the Lasker Awards given each year by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation to honor individuals who have contributed to medical innovations that benefit society as a whole. The Lasker Awards are among the most respected science prizes in the world and have become known as ‘America’s Nobels,’ since they often presage future recognition by the Nobel committee.  Support for the annual awards ceremony is just one component of a 10-year agreement between the IRRF and the Lasker Foundation.

The 2012 Lasker Awards, which carry an honorarium of $250,000 for each category, were presented at a ceremony on September 21 in New York City.

The Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award honors scientists whose fundamental investigations have provided techniques, information, or concepts contributing to the elimination of major causes of disability and death.  Michael Sheetz (Columbia University), James Spudich (Stanford University School of Medicine) and Ronald Vale (University of California, San Francisco) were awarded the Basic Medical Research Award for discoveries concerning cytoskeletal motor proteins - molecules that move cargoes within cells, contract muscles, and enable cell movements.

The Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award honors investigators whose contributions have improved the clinical treatment of patients.  Roy Calne (Emeritus, University of Cambridge) and Thomas E. Starzl (University of Pittsburgh) were honored with the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for the development of liver transplantation, which has restored normal life to thousands of patients with end-stage liver disease.  Some of Starzl’s and Calne’s early patients – originally diagnosed with untreatable and lethal diseases – are still thriving today, decades after their surgeries.

The Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science honors scientists whose contributions to research are of unique magnitude and have immeasurably influenced the course of science, health, or medicine.  For exceptional leadership and citizenship in biomedical science – exemplified by fundamental discoveries concerning the nature of genes; by selfless commitment to young scientists; and by disseminating revolutionary technologies to the scientific community.

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Roy Calne

Donald D. Brown and Tom Maniatis were honored with the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science.