Joe GoldsteinConceptual advances in the biomedical sciences are crucially dependent on technological innovation. The 2001 Lasker awards celebrate the development of two technologies — one that has allowed the manipulation of the mouse genome with exquisite precision, opening the door to the creation of ‘designer’ strains of mice, and a second one that has made in vitro fertilization (IVF) possible, revolutionizing the treatment of human infertility.

Laskers for 2001: Knockout mice and test-tube babies

Compared to mathematics and physics, biology and medicine are largely empirical sciences. There are no grand unified theories to guide experiments in the biomedical sciences. Conceptual advances often depend on the development of new technologies. Without the triple technologies of recombinant DNA, gene sequencing, and PCR, there would be no biotechnology industry and no sequence of the human genome. Without the development of the heart-lung machine, there would be no surgery to repair congenital heart defects in children and no surgery to bypass occluded coronary arteries in adults. This year’s Lasker Awards in Basic and Clinical Science celebrate the development of two technologies that have had comparable revolutionary impact. Without these two technologies that you’ll hear about in a moment, there would be no such thing as human embryonic stem cell research, and President Bush could have enjoyed his summer vacation in Crawford without having to agonize over the baptism of the infamous 64 stem cell lines.

The presentation of this year’s Lasker Basic Science Award will be made by Ira Herskowitz, professor of genetics at the University of California in San Francisco. Ira is one of the most creative and influential scientists in the world and has been a long-term and dedicated member of the Lasker Jury. Our Jury deliberations are always enlightened by Ira’s wisdom and enlivened by his wit. It’s indeed an honor to introduce Ira to you.

I will present the Lasker Clinical Science Award and Daniel Koshland, Jr., Chairman of the Selection Committee for the Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award, will present this award.