For discoveries concerning the nutrient-activated TOR proteins and their central role in the metabolic control of cell growth
The 2017 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award honors a scientist who discovered the nutrient-activated TOR proteins and their central role in the metabolic control of cell growth. By showing that the TOR system adjusts cell size in response to the availability of raw materials, Michael N. Hall (Biozentrum, University of Basel) revealed an unanticipated linchpin of normal cell physiology. TOR balances constructive and destructive activities to match accumulation of cell mass with nutrient supply and other growth signals, such as hormones. Disruption of the TOR network contributes to numerous human illnesses, including diabetes and cancer, and has been implicated in a wide range of other age-related disorders.
Award presentation by Bruce Stillman
In 1839, Charles Darwin wrote “it appears to me that nothing can be more improving to a young naturalist than a journey in a distant country”. Like the geographic travels to which Darwin was referring, it seems to me that a different journey, one of scientific discovery, can also be improving to a young scientist. Today we celebrate a talented yeast geneticist who has traveled a very interesting scientific journey.
In parallel to Darwin’s 1835 travels to the now famous Pacific Islands of Galapagos, our journey today starts with a voyage to another Pacific Island. In the mid 1960s, Canadian scientists set out on an expedition to study the health of the native population of the remote Polynesian Island of Rapa Nui, commonly known as Easter Island. Instead of collecting finches, they gathered soil samples that were later shown to contain a Streptomyces bacterium that synthesized a chemical natural product called rapamycin. Rapamycin, together with another soil-derived natural product called FK506, attracted much attention because of their potent immunosuppressant activities, enabling their use for kidney transplants, for the treatment of ulcerative colitis and treating certain cancers. But how did these drugs work?
Acceptance remarks by Michael N. Hall
I am deeply honored and delighted to receive the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. How did this come to be? To answer this question, I have to tell you a short story.
A few years ago, a radio journalist asked me, “What is more important, your wife or your science?” I brushed off this seemingly silly question by answering half in jest, “My wife is more important, science is my mistress.” In truth, the question was not so silly because it made me realize that my wife Sabine and Science are the two great love affairs of my life.
2017 Basic Award video
Video Credit: Flora Lichtman