Medical scientists working on discoveries in protein-folding which has implications for treating diseases associated with aging and the research involved in the development of a malaria drug have won awards for basic medical research and clinical medical research in the prestigious 2011 Lasker Awards.
The prize in each winning category is $250,000. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in New York City on September 23.
Dr. Franz Hartl of the Max Plank Institute in Germany and Dr. Arthur Horwich of Yale University in the U.S., are to receive the award for basic medical research for the discovery of chaperonin, an unusual protein which assists other proteins to form, without interference.
Dr. Tu Youyou of the China Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing won for Clinical Medical Research for her work with Artemisinin over the last few decades. The discovery of the antimalarial drug Artemisinin is related to thousands of years of research in Chinese medicine.
"In granting these awards, the Lasker Foundation recognizes a breakthrough in understanding how proteins reach their functional forms and honors the work of a scientist who charted a new course of inquiry into the treatment of malaria," said Joseph L. Goldstein, Chair of the Lasker Medical Research Awards Jury.
Tu Youyou described her work on discovering the drug, which began in the 1960s and began spreading around the world in the 1980s.
"The task I took was to search for a new drug from traditional Chinese herbal medicine to fight against Malaria," she said in a video interview for the award.
Hartl and Horwich, meanwhile, researched a new method of protein build which occurred from help of the chaperonins in small boxes called HSP60 “changing rooms.” Their research is implicated in a number of diseases involving proteins mis-folding in Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“By unraveling the mysterious workings of these amazing machines, they gave the medical world a key understanding of how proteins reach their biological potential,” the Lasker Foundation said in a released statement
"Nobody thought there would be these little nano-compartments in the cell,” said Dr. Günter Blobel, to NYTimes, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist on the Lasker Award jury.
"That is very unexpected and very important and very nice,” he said.