Seven Scientists Win Lasker Awards for Medical Advances

Seven scientists won Lasker Awards for advances in medical science that include development of liver transplant, discoveries about proteins that aid muscle function and promotion of novel techniques for studying genes.

The prizes, from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and worth $250,000 for three categories, will be presented Sept. 21 in New York.

Thomas Starzl, of the University of Pittsburgh, and Roy Calne, of Cambridge University, won for clinical medical research for work that led to the first liver transplants. Calne in 1960 showed in dogs it was possible to prevent organ rejection. In 1963, Starzl attempted the first transplant in humans. Though the first patient died, the procedure they developed led to today’s life-saving successes. In 1983, the U.S. Surgeon General indicated liver transplants were no longer considered experimental.

The award for basic research was shared by Michael Sheetz of Columbia University, James Spudich of Stanford University and Ronald Vale of the University of California, San Francisco. They discovered how proteins make muscles contract and affect aspects of movement within cells. Their achievements led to new molecular targets for developing drugs and understanding disease.

Donald Brown, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Baltimore and Tom Maniatis of Columbia University won for their “exceptional leadership and citizenship.” They made crucial discoveries in the field of genetics, and also nurtured the careers of young scientists.

The Lasker prizes have been awarded since 1945 by the Lasker Foundation, which was founded in 1942. Based in New York, the Lasker Foundation’s awards recognize contributions of scientists, physicians and others who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of disease.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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