On September 28, the Lasker Foundation announced the winners of the 2022 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the 2022 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, and the 2022 Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award.
Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award
Richard O. Hynes, PhD, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Erkki Ruoslahti, PhD, of Sanford Burnham Prebys; and Timothy A. Springer, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, will receive the 2022 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. The Foundation is honoring the three scientists for discoveries concerning integrins, key mediators of cell-matrix and cell-cell adhesion in physiology and disease.
In their respective labs, Dr. Hynes and Dr. Ruoslahti identified a cell surface–associated protein that helps affix cells to the surrounding material, called the extracellular matrix; later, they identified a receptor to which this protein binds. Separately, Dr. Springer detected transmembrane proteins that underlie the ability of immune cells to interact with their targets. These initially disparate discoveries converged, and their significance mushroomed after the investigators realized that these proteins—later dubbed “integrins”—belong to the same molecular family.
The work of Drs. Springer, Ruoslahti, and Hynes launched the field of integrin research, which explores the essential roles these proteins play in physiology and health. They provided a greater understanding of the diseases that can result when integrin function is perturbed. Their discoveries laid the foundation for novel therapeutic strategies to treat a variety of autoimmune disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and certain clotting conditions.
Read more about their work at laskerfoundation.org.
Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award
The 2022 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award honors Yuk Ming Dennis Lo, SBS, JP, FRS, FRCP, FRCPath, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who discovered cell-free fetal DNA in maternal blood and developed noninvasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome, which occurs in 1 in 800 births globally. Dr. Lo spurred a revolution in clinical practice that has saved millions of women from undergoing invasive testing procedures that increase miscarriage risk.
Dr. Lo embarked on his medical studies with a vision for finding noninvasive methodologies to detect fetal genetic aberrations without disrupting pregnancies. He demonstrated that cell-free fetal DNA is present in the mother’s blood and went on to devise analytics that detect genetic markers for Down syndrome, creating a noninvasive test that is more than 99% accurate for ruling out the condition. Following the commercial launch of the test in 2011, health-care centers around the world quickly embraced noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technology as a safe alternative to amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. NIPT is now available in 60 countries and is widely used by clinicians.
Dr. Lo and others are currently expanding these insights to exploit cell-free DNA in cancer detection and management, transplantation biology, and more.
Read more about his work at laskerfoundation.org.
Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award
Lauren Gardner, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, was awarded the 2022 Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award for creating the Covid-19 Dashboard, which set a new standard for disseminating authoritative public health data in real time. Dr. Gardner's dashboard provides accessible and reliable information about the spread of an emerging infectious disease. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it filled a void in the international public health system and established a model to emulate.
In January 2020, the appearance of a novel coronavirus prompted Dr. Gardner and graduate student Ensheng Dong to track an outbreak from its onset. Dr. Gardner and her team developed an intuitive and interactive interface that displayed the number of cases and deaths as the epidemic expanded. After she shared the dashboard via Twitter, the public took notice.
Operational since before the outbreak became a global pandemic, Dr. Gardner’s Covid-19 Dashboard has expanded and become part of the Coronavirus Resource Center, which compiles and synthesizes data, such as vaccination rates, from more than 3,500 locations. It has become an authoritative and trusted data source for COVID-19 modeling, policymaking, and personal decision-making. The Covid-19 Dashboard enabled the world to watch, for the first time, a pandemic’s trajectory as it unfolded, ultimately creating a new standard for public health data science.
Learn more about her work at laskerfoundation.org.The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.