The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has announced the winners of the 2019 Lasker Awards. The awards, among the most prestigious in medical science, recognize the contributions of leaders who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of human disease and carry an honorarium of $250,000.
The 2019 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award honors two scientists for discoveries that have launched the course of modern immunology. Max D. Cooper (Emory University School of Medicine) and Jacques Miller (emeritus professor, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia) were honored for their work in identifying two distinct classes of lymphocytes, B and T cells — an achievement that provided the organizing principle of the adaptive immune system and has fueled numerous advances in basic and medical science, several of which have earned recognition by Lasker Award and Nobel Prize committees.
The Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award was given to H. Michael Shepard, Dennis J. Slamon, and Axel Ullrich for their invention of Herceptin, the first monoclonal antibody to block a cancer-causing protein, and developing it into a life-saving therapy for women with breast cancer. Every year, more than fifty thousand women in the United States are diagnosed with the type of breast cancer that the drug attacks, and more than 2.3 million individuals have received the treatment since it became available. Shepard (now at BetterOutcomes4Cancer) and Ullrich (now at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, in Germany) conducted their Herceptin investigations at Genentech, while Slamon conducted his at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he continues to work.
And the 2019 Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award was given to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for providing sustained access to childhood vaccines around the globe and highlighting the power of immunization to prevent disease. By harnessing the latest scientific advances, collaborating, and exercising economic influence, Gavi works to ensure the availability of sufficient vaccine supplies at affordable prices, accelerates the development and deployment of new vaccines, and strengthens healthcare systems. To date, the alliance has helped vaccinate more than 760 million children and saved over 13 million lives in seventy-three countries.