Stem Cell Society Leaders Receive Nation's Top Science Awards

  • 23 September, 2009

ISSCR Congratulates Yamanaka on Lasker Award, Fuchs on National Medal of Science

Deerfield, IL, USA, September 23, 2009 -- The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) congratulates two board members who were named recipients of two of the nation’s top science awards. Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD (Kyoto University), ISSCR board member since 2008, has been awarded the 2009 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his breakthrough research in nuclear reprogramming and stem cells. Elaine Fuchs, PhD (Rockefeller University), ISSCR president-elect, has received the 2009 National Medal of Science for contributions to the biological sciences.

Yamanaka, along with John Gurdon, DPhil, Cambridge University, received the Lasker Award for the discovery concerning the reprogramming of adult tissue cells to early embryonic stage pluripotency by both egg and genetic factors.

“The recognition of the long search for reprogramming tissue cells to pluripotent stem cells was honored last week by the Lasker Foundation. John Gurdon turned the glimmer of the idea that (Robert) Briggs and (Thomas) King started, to a reality by nuclear transfer of frog somatic cells into the frog egg, producing a ‘chromosomal clone’ tadpole that could become a frog,” said ISSCR President Irving L. Weissman, MD. “ISSCR members Ian Wilmut and Jamie Thomson showed that nuclear transfer in vertebrates could lead to an individual or a pluripotent stem cell line. ISSCR members Rudolph Jaenisch and Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues showed that the nuclear transfer stem cell lines faithfully reproduced the genetics of the transferred nucleus, opening the door to capture a patient’s disease in a cell line that could make all of the body’s cells; this is a benchmark advance to study human disease. And Shinya Yamanaka topped it off with his brilliant inclusive search for the genes found in embryonic stem cell lines that might reprogram and maintain their genomes in the pluripotent state. [His] historical experiments will be the text that excites the next generation of scientists to try their hands at discovery.”

The Lasker Awards, which often preview the Nobel Prize, will be presented at a ceremony on Friday, October 2, in New York City. The Lasker Foundation was created in 1942 by advertising executive Albert Lasker and his wife Mary, a health advocate.

Fuchs is being honored for her studies on the biology of mammalian skin and skin diseases. “This award is richly deserved. Elaine Fuchs has made a tremendous contribution to our understanding of skin function in health and disease,” said ISSCR immediate past president, Fiona Watt, DPhil, CR-UK Cambridge Research Institute.

Fuchs’ studies have already uncovered the genetic basis of various skin diseases and disorders that may also hold clues to understanding the extraordinary characteristics that enable stem cells to develop into different tissues and organs.

President Barack Obama will present Fuchs and eight other scientists with the medal, which is the nation’s highest honor for science, at a ceremony on October 7 at the White House. The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.

“The ISSCR is extremely proud of all of our members who have contributed to these breakthrough achievements, only some of whom are mentioned here,” Weissman added.

September 23 marks Stem Cell Awareness Day. ISSCR joins organizations and individuals around the world in recognizing and celebrating the advances made to date in the important field of stem cell research and the promise of stem cells for the future.


The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is an independent, nonprofit membership organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application.

Posted September 24, 2009