September 2019

Congratulations to Prizewinning VVPs!

  • F Ulrich Hartl (VVP 2018), Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, who shares a 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences with Arthur L. Horwich (Yale School of Medicine and HHMI) for discovering functions of molecular chaperones in mediating protein folding and preventing protein aggregation.  Their citation reads: Collaborating between New Haven and Munich, Hartl and Horwich discovered the supporting machinery that enables proteins to properly fold into the precise shapes necessary to perform their myriad jobs within the cell. As we age, this machinery might slow down and could leave proteins messily clumping – “like the white of an egg congealing in a hot frying pan” – and setting the stage for cancer as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Current research is investigating how to repair or support the cell’s folding machinery to inhibit protein clumping and preserve healthy functioning as we age.
  • Lewis C Cantley (VVP 2006 and Vallee Director), Weill Cornell Medicine, who shares the 2019 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize with David M. Sabatini (MIT and HHMI), and Peter K. Vogt (Scripps Research Institute) for their seminal contributions to the role of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and mechanistic target for rapamycin (mTOR) pathways in physiology and oncogenesis.  Lewis Cantley’s laboratory discovered the PI3K signaling pathway in the mid-1980s. His team showed that PI3K triggers cells to take up glucose in response to insulin and other growth factors and traced the cascade of molecular signals that interact with PI3K to control cell growth.
  • Dame Carol Robinson (VVP 2016 and Vallee Director), University of Oxford, who is awarded one of three 2019 Royal Medals for her pioneering work on structural biology improving the understanding of proteins, their interactions, and functional regulation.
  • Michel Goedert (appointed VVP 2019), MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, who is also awarded a 2019 Royal Medal for identifying and characterising assembled tau protein and alpha-synuclein and showing that they form the inclusions of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.  The Royal Medals, also known as the Queen’s Medals, are one of the Royal Society’s most prestigious awards and are made on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen each year, on the recommendation of the Council of the Society.
  • Douglas Rees (VVP 2005) (California Institute of Technology), who shares the 2019 Gregori Aminoff Prize, given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, with Jian-Ren Shen (Okayama University) for “their fundamental contributions to the understanding of biological redox metal clusters”, in particular, their research into two enzyme systems that are of vital importance to life on Earth: nitrogenases, which fix nitrogen, and a photosynthesis enzyme in plants and bacteria. Enzymes are protein molecules that drive the chemical reactions found in all living things. They are the foundation for the chemistry of life.