Three scientists who pioneered the use of mouse embryonic stem cells to create animal models of human diseases, the researcher who developed the technique of in vitro fertilization, and a CDC director who played a pivotal role in eradicating smallpox and preventing river blindness have been named winners of this year's Lasker Awards, the nation's most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research.
At an award luncheon in New York City on September 21, the 2001 Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service was presented to William H. Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control (1977-1983) and currently the senior medical adviser for the Global Health Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to his role in eradicating smallpox and preventing river blindness, Foege is credited with helping to unravel the mysteries of Toxic Shock Syndrome and Reyes Syndrome and issuing early warnings about AIDS.
The 2001 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research was shared by Mario Capecchi, Martin Evans, and Oliver Smithies for their development of a powerful technology for manipulating the mouse genome with exquisite precision, which in turn enables the creation of animal models of human diseases and allows researchers to test new ideas and pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs.
The 2001 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research was presented to Robert G. Edwards of the University of Cambridge in England for the development of in vitro fertilization, a technological advance that has revolutionized the treatment of human infertility.
First presented in 1946, the Lasker Awards have been presented to 63 scientists who subsequently received the Nobel Prize, including four in the last three years. The Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation, sponsor of the awards, was established by its namesakes in 1942 to encourage public support and federal funding for promising research in medical science.
Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation Web site: http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/thisyear.html.