2012 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research includes two HFSP Alumni

Alumni news: Michael Sheetz and James Spudich, both HFSP alumni, share the 2012 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with Ronald Vale.

From the Award Description of the Lasker Foundation:

“The 2012 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award honors three scientists for their discoveries concerning cytoskeletal motor proteins, machines that move cargoes within cells, contract muscles, and enable cell movements. By developing systems that allow reconstitution of motility from its constituent parts, Michael Sheetz (Columbia University), James Spudich (Stanford University School of Medicine), and Ronald Vale (University of California, San Francisco) established ways to study molecular motors in detail. These accomplishments enabled the discovery of the motor protein kinesin and unveiled the steps by which these engines convert chemical energy into mechanical work. The miniscule motors underlie numerous vital processes, and the landmark achievements of Vale, Spudich, and Sheetz are driving drug-discovery efforts aimed at cardiac problems as well as cancer.” The full award description is available at: http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2012_b_description.htm.

Michael Sheetz was supported by an HFSP Research Grant awarded in 1991 for an intercontinental collaboration involving the laboratories of Akihiro Kusumi (Japan) and Maria Leptin (Germany) to study “Membrane glycoprotein aggregation and movement in development of tissue contacts”.

James Spudich has received two HFSP collaborative international Research Grants. In 1993 he was a co-investigator in a project with Robert Simmons (UK) and Steven Chu (USA) on “Single molecule mechanics using optical tweezers”. In 2009 he was again a grant co-investigator working in the field for which he received the 2012 Lasker Award together with Ramanathan Sowdhamini (India) and Henrik Flyvbjerg (Denmark). The Research Grant was on “Implications of Tail Structural Features on Molecular Mechanisms and Biological Functions of Myosins”. In an article about the beginnings of molecular motor biophysics, James Spudich describes how the HFSP grant support enabled a physicist (Chu) and a biochemist (Spudich) to set a new paradigm for interdisciplinary research (http://www.hfsp.org/frontier-science/hfsp-success-stories/looking-back-launch-single-molecule-biophysics).

Ronald Vale has hosted three HFSP Long-Term Fellowship awardees between 1997 and 2009 and one Short-Term Fellow in 1991. He is currently hosting a 2011 HFSP Long-Term Fellow in his laboratory working on “Measurement and function of microtubule dynamics in neuronal axon processes”.