The New York City-based Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has announced the winners of the 2009 Lasker Awards, one of the most coveted honors in medical science. The awards include an honorarium of $250,000 in each category.
In the area of basic medical research, this year's winners are John Gurdon of Cambridge University and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University for breakthrough discoveries related to the process that instructs specialized adult cells to form stem cells. Their findings concerning nuclear reprogramming opened new avenues for exploring embryonic and adult stem cell research, understanding inscrutable diseases, and exploring personalized cell-replacement therapies.
The winners of the 2009 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award are Brian J. Druker of Oregon Health & Science University, Nicholas B. Lydon, formerly of Novartis, and Charles L. Sawyers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for their groundbreaking work on the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia. The team's discoveries transformed the disease from a fatal cancer to a manageable condition.
In addition, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was honored with the 2009 Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award for policy initiatives that set a world standard for using public health concerns to propel government action and for advancing public health through philanthropy. Bloomberg's efforts, both as an elected official and as an individual, to reduce tobacco use and promote healthy eating habits are helping stop disease before it starts.
"The 2009 Lasker Awards underscore the ways in which our commitment to medical research opens up new areas of inquiry and enables science-based decision making to improve the public's health," said Lasker Foundation president Maria Freire. "All six laureates have played crucial roles in finding solutions to a host of vexing health problems. Lives everywhere may be saved and improved because of their bold innovations in public health, cell differentiation, and cancer treatments."