Two Boston-area researchers are among the winners of prestigious Lasker Awards for their discoveries concerning integrins, proteins on the surface of cells that help them attach to other cells and to the substance that surrounds them.
The Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award was given to Richard O. Hynes, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, and Timothy A. Springer, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a research lab chief at Boston Children’s Hospital. A third researcher, Erkki Ruoslahti of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, also shared the award.
Their work “launched the field of integrin research, which explores the essential roles these proteins play in physiology and health,” the Lasker Foundation said in a statement. “They provided a greater understanding of the diseases that can result when integrin function is perturbed. Their discoveries laid the foundation for novel therapeutic strategies to treat a variety of autoimmune disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and certain clotting conditions.”
Springer is not just as a scientist; he’s a billionaire entrepreneur and a driving force behind some of the biggest companies in Boston biotech for the past 30 years. Springer set in motion a series of events that created the COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna and committed to being its first investor, the Globe reported in July.
The Lasker Awards have been given out for more than 75 years for advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of human disease, the foundation said. The awards carry a prize of $250,000 for each category. They’ve come to be known as “America’s Nobels,” and dozens of winners have gone on to win Nobel prizes.
Two other Lasker Awards were announced.
The Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award went to Dr. Yuk Ming Dennis Lo of The Chinese University of Hong Kong “for the discovery of fetal DNA in maternal blood, leading to noninvasive prenatal testing for Down syndrome.”
The Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award was given to Lauren Gardner, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, for creating the COVID-19 Dashboard website, “which set a new standard for disseminating authoritative public health data in real time,” the foundation said. The website became a go-to source for information about the pandemic as it spread across the world.
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.