Lasker-Debakey Award: James, Evelyn, Stephen and Doctors Without Borders are the winners

According to announcements made by the Albert & Mary Lasker Foundation on Tuesday, this year’s Lasker Awards have been won by three researchers, who have made some groundbreaking discoveries in genetics and cancer, and the celebrated aid group Doctors Without Borders. For those who don’t know: the Lasker awards are regarded as the most prestigious prizes in the world of medicine.

Lasker awards are given in three different categories; the prize money for all these categories is same, $250,000. A large number of people receiving the Lasker award have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. According to information provided by the foundation, the past three decades have seen as many as 44 Lasker recipients receive Nobel prizes. This year’s award ceremony will be taking place on September 18 in Manhattan.

This year, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award will be shared by Stephen J. Elledge and Evelyn M. Witkin for the work they have individually done on “DNA-damage response”. The term DNA damage response is used for a series of actions that human cells, yeast and bacteria take for protecting their genomes against continuous threats from malfunctioning biochemical processes, radiation and chemicals.

The Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award will be given to James P. Allison. Allison will be getting the award for discovering and then developing a new cancer treatment. The cancer treatment developed by him gave birth to the first drug of a new class known as checkpoint inhibitors. Drugs belonging to this class allow a patient’s own immune system to combat cancer.

The third Lasker Award i.e. the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award, as mentioned above, will be given to Doctors Without Borders. The aid group is getting the award for the bold leadership it demonstrated when combating the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

Additionally, according to a statement issued by the Lasker Foundation, Doctors Without Borders has been selected for this year’s Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award for its constant and effective frontline responses to medical emergencies during the epidemic.

Doctors Without Borders, whose French name is Médecins Sans Frontières, is an international aid group that operates to provide humanitarian aid and medical assistance to victims of natural disasters, wars, famines and of course infectious diseases. It was established in France 44 years back, in 1971, and now comprises 24 regional or national associations.