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Prestigious Lasker Awards for NUS Professors

11 September 2012

Prof Sheetz (left) and Prof Calne, winners of 2012 Lasker Awards

Two NUS scientists - Professor Michael Sheetz, Director of the Mechanobiology Institute of Singapore (MBI), and Professor Roy Calne, Visiting Professor with the NUS Yong Loo Lin of Medicine's Department of Surgery - have been honoured with the prestigious Lasker Awards for their breakthrough work in medical research.

One of the most respected science prizes in the world, the Lasker Awards presented by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation recognises visionaries whose insight and efforts have resulted in breakthroughs that will prevent disease and prolong life. Since its establishment in 1945, 81 Lasker laureates have received the Nobel Prize.

Prof Sheetz, together with Professor James Spundich (Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California) and Professor Ronald Vale (University of California, San Francisco), will receive the 2012 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for their discovery of machine-like cytoskeletal motor proteins that transport cargoes within cells, contract muscles and enable cell movements.

Prof Calne will be sharing with Professor Thomas E Starzl (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) the 2012 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for developing life-saving liver transplantation techniques that has helped thousands of patients with end-stage liver disease restore a normal life.

Prof Sheetz is honoured by the recognition. "My fellow award recipients and I have always believed in an open culture for scientific exchange. An open laboratory concept encourages researchers of different disciplines to share ideas that speeds the rate of innovation and discovery," he stressed. In Singapore, he has put this idea into practice at MBI, a national-level Research Centre of Excellence, by working with the institute's multidisciplinary team of scientists. The researchers are building up knowledge in basic cell and tissue functions to improve understanding of drug targets towards the goal of developing fundamentally new medical therapies.

Prof Calne is grateful for the award. He said that upon retirement, his post at NUS as a Visiting Professor allows him to move his research interest to gene and stem cell therapy aimed at the treatment of diabetes. The collaboration with colleagues from the University's Division of Endocrinology and Department of Biochemistry, together with researchers from Egypt and the United Kingdom, is slowly making progress. "It seems to me rather like organ transplantation was in 1950 where most people said it cannot be done but eventually they were proven wrong," he added.

Said NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan: "Our heartiest congratulations to Prof Sheetz and Prof Calne on this landmark achievement. We are greatly honoured to have both professors share their knowledge and lead research in their areas of expertise at NUS. Their experience and deep insights will help spur research advances at NUS in these important medical fields."

The Lasker Awards, which carry an honorarium of US$250,000 for each category, will be presented at a ceremony on 21 September 2012 in New York City. The detailed citation for Prof Sheetz can be read here, and the citations for Prof Calne here.

For more information on the Lasker Awards, visit