The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced today that Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator Ronald D. Vale of the University of California, San Francisco, Michael Sheetz of Columbia University and James Spudich of Stanford University School of Medicine will share the 2012 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.
The Lasker Awards -- considered among the most respected science prizes in the world -- honor visionaries whose insight and perseverance have led to dramatic advances that will prevent disease and prolong life.
Vale, Sheetz and Spudich are being honored for their discoveries concerning cytoskeletal motor proteins -- machines that move cargoes within cells, contract muscles, and enable cell movements. According to a citation from the Lasker Foundation, basic research by the three scientists led to the development of systems that allow reconstitution of motility from its constituent parts. The Foundation credits the three for establishing ways to study molecular motors in detail – an accomplishment that enabled the discovery of the motor protein kinesin and unveiled the steps by which these motor proteins convert chemical energy into mechanical work.
The Lasker Foundation also recognized HHMI scientific review board member Thomas Maniatis of Columbia University and Donald D. Brown of the Carnegie Institution for Science. The two shared the Lasker-Koshland Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science in recognition of their numerous discoveries concerning the nature of genes and for exceptional leadership and citizenship in biomedicine.
The awards, which carry an honorarium of $250,000, will be presented at a ceremony on September 21 in New York City. Including Vale, 13 current HHMI investigators have won Lasker Awards, the nation's most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research.
Vale was named an HHMI investigator in 1995. He is also William K. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Anesthesia and Professor and Chair of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, where he has been on the faculty since 1987. He is founder and director of iBioSeminars, which produces and distributes free, on-demand biology lectures by high profile leaders in biological research.
Vale received a B.A. degree in biology and chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience from Stanford University. His graduate and postdoctoral studies at the Marine Biological Laboratory led to the discovery of kinesin, a microtubule-based motor protein.
Vale's honors include the Pfizer Award in enzyme chemistry, the Young Investigator Award from the Biophysical Society, and the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.