The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) has announced that its 2020 HFSP Nakasone Award will be awarded to Angelika Amon of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA ‘for her discovery of aneuploidy-induced cellular changes and their contribution to tumorigenesis’ which paved the way for exploiting aneuploidy as a therapeutic target in cancer treatment.
The HFSP Nakasone Award was established to honor scientists who have made key breakthroughs in fields at the forefront of the life sciences. It recognizes the vision of Japan’s former Prime Minister Nakasone in the creation of the international science funding organization - HFSPO.
Angelika Amon’s studies showed that in primary cells changes in chromosome number cause proteomic imbalances that lead to numerous cellular stresses and decrease fitness. The idea that aneuploidy is highly detrimental for cells was barely conceivable given that all cancer cell lines are aneuploid and proliferate with great speed. After showing that aneuploidy affects mammalian cells in the same way as yeast cells, causing cellular stresses and fitness defects, it became clear that her work has defined the field, and provided the theoretical foundation for novel therapeutics that can specifically kill cells that experience proteotoxic stress. Indeed, Amon has even found lead compounds as a springboard for translating this concept into actual therapeutics.
“Dr. Amon’s achievements are a perfect example of the importance of basic research for breakthroughs in the treatment of disease,” said Warwick P. Anderson, HFSPO Secretary-General. “Research by the HFSP Nakasone Award winners demonstrates the benefits that flow from talented life scientists pursuing the complex mechanisms of life. The Human Frontier Science Program was established 30 years ago to foster international cooperation that extends the frontiers of knowledge in biology. Much has been discovered over those three decades but there is still a long way to go - understanding the processes of life remains one of humankind’s biggest challenges.”
Amon’s work on how aneuploidy promotes tumorigenesis has been groundbreaking. She showed that aneuploidy causes multiple forms of genomic instability, leading to the discovery of a new class of mutations important for tumorigenesis (mutations that mediate aneuploidy tolerance), and because aneuploidy is rare in normal tissues, she paved the way for exploiting aneuploidy as a therapeutic target in cancer through genetic and small molecule screening efforts.
Angelika Amon started the field of aneuploidy. She developed the models and tools to determine how aneuploidy affects cellular and organismal physiology and described the systemic effects of aneuploidy-induced proteomic imbalances. Her work further led to compelling hypotheses as to how aneuploidy drives cancer. Others have contributed to this field, but it was her findings that defined the questions and led to our current understanding of aneuploidy’s impact on cells and organisms and how it could contribute to tumorigenesis.
Angelika Amon is the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor of Cancer Research and a researcher at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. In 1993, she received her PhD from the University of Vienna, Austria, and then joined the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, USA as a postdoctoral fellow the following year. She became a Whitehead Fellow in 1996 at the Whitehead Institute and in 1999, joined the MIT faculty in the Department of Biology and Center for Cancer Research, where she has been an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 2000. In 2007, Angelika Amon was promoted to Full Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The HFSP Nakasone Award will be presented to Dr. Amon on 6 May 2020 at an event hosted by the National Institutes of Health.
You can read more on the 2020 HFSP Nakasone Award at https://www.hfsp.org/hfsp-nakasone-award/2020-angelika-amon.
The HFSP Nakasone Award was established in 2010. Previous recipients are Karl Deisseroth (2010), Michael Elowitz (2011), Gina Turrigiano (2012), Stephen Quake (2013), Uri Alon (2014), James Collins (2015), Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier (2016), David Julius (2017), Svante Pääbo (2018) and Michael Hall (2019).
The Human Frontier Science Program was founded in 1989 to advance international research and training at the frontier of the life sciences. It is supported by contributions from the G7 nations, together with Switzerland, Australia, India, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Republic of Korea and the European Union. Through its collaborative research grants and postdoctoral fellowships, the program has issued over 4500 awards involving more than 7500 scientists from all over the world.