News About Our Recipients

2010 Albany Prize Recipient David Botstein, PhD, Honored by American Association for Cancer Research

The 2010 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical research recipient David Botstein, Ph.D., was selected to present the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship.

David Botstein, PhD, 2010 Albany Prize Winner
David Botstein, PhD, 2010 Albany Prize Winner

Dr. Botstein, Anthony B. Evnin professor of genomics at Princeton University and chief scientific officer of Calico, Google’s new startup focusing on health and well-being, is being recognized for his far-reaching work on cancer and genetics, including laying the groundwork for what would become the Human Genome Project.

He presented the lecture, “Evolution and Cancer” at the AACR’s annual meeting on April 5, 2014.

The AACR-Irving Weinstein Foundation Distinguished Lectureship was established in 2004 to acknowledge an individual whose outstanding innovations in science and whose position as a thought leader have the potential to inspire creative thinking and new directions in cancer research. The recipient is selected by the AACR president and is not open to nominations.

“I am greatly pleased and honored, and very surprised, by this award. I never thought of myself as a cancer biologist.” Dr. Botstein said in a press release from the AACR. “I am a basic scientist who has pursued understanding for its own sake. I’m delighted that the AACR has recognized in this award that the pursuit of understanding, as opposed to a determined focus on translation, may sometimes be the best way to address the terrible and complex disease called cancer.”

2013 Albany Prize Winner Janet Davison Rowley, MD, Dies at the Age of 88

Albany Medical Center celebrates the life and mourns the death of Dr. Janet Davison Rowley, who earlier this year was a recipient of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.

Janet D. Rowley, MD
2013 Albany Prize Winner Janet D. Rowley, MD
Dr. Rowley passed away on Dec. 19, 2013 at the age of 88.

A cancer genetics pioneer, she was one of three scientists honored for work that has led to the development of a new generation of targeted cancer drugs. Dr. Rowley was a professor of Medicine and Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.

She was renowned for her studies of chromosome abnormalities in human leukemia and lymphoma, which have led to cures for previously untreatable cancers. She also was a recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“She was a wonderfully warm person, and a one of the true giants in cancer research. I am so happy that we were able to award her the Albany Medical Center Prize during her lifetime,” said Albany Med President Jim Barba.

2005 Albany Prize Winner Dr. Robert S. Langer Earns 2013 Julio Palmaz Award

Robert S. Langer, ScD, a 2005 winner of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research and an Albany native, has been awarded the BioMed SA 2013 Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences. The award, named for Palmaz stent inventor Julio Palmaz, MD, honors individuals who have made significant contributions to advance the healthcare and bioscience fields.

Dr. Robert S. Langer
2005 Albany Prize Winner
Robert S. Langer, ScD
Dr. Langer is one of 11 Institute Professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he runs one of the nation’s largest research labs. He has been called ‘one of history’s more prolific medical inventors, one of the 25 most important individuals in biotechnology in the world, one of 15 innovators worldwide who will reinvent our future’ and ‘one of the 100 most important people in America.’

“Dr. Langer’s stature as a world-famous engineer, medical inventor and entrepreneur makes him a standout choice for this year’s award,” Dr. Bruce Leslie, 2013 Palmaz Committee Chair and chancellor of the Alamo Colleges in San Antonio said in a release.

Dr. Langer was the 2005 Albany Prize recipient for his entire body of scientific work, most notably his seminal research on polymer-based drug delivery systems, which has allowed clinicians to control the release of large molecules in a slow, steady and controlled manner.

"The world owes an infinite debt of gratitude to Dr. Langer for his pioneering work in the field of drug delivery systems that improve the lives of more than 60 million people each year," said James J. Barba, president and CEO of Albany Medical Center when Dr. Langer won the Albany Prize in 2005.

In addition to the Albany Prize and the Palmaz Award, Dr. Langer has received more than 220 major awards including both the 2006 U.S. National Medal of Science and the 2011 U.S. National Medical of Technology and Innovation, and the 2002 Charles Stark Draper Prize, which is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for engineers.

2007 Albany Prize Recipient Dr. Robert Lefkowitz Wins Nobel Prize

Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., a recipient of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research has been named a 2013 Nobel Prize winner. Dr. Lefkowitz, M.D., who received the Albany Prize in 2007 for his pioneering research on cell receptors that led to the development of many important drugs, was selected as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Brian Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine.

Robert Lefkowitz, MD, 2007 Albany Prize winner, 2012 Nobel Prize winner
2007 Albany Prize Winner
Robert Lefkowitz, MD

Earlier, stem cell pioneer Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D.., of Kyoto University in Japan(see story below) was announced as one of two winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Medicine. He was honored just last year with the Albany Prize.

Dr. Lefkowitz becomes the fifth Nobel Prize winner who was previously an Albany Prize recipient. In addition to Dr. Yamanaka, the others are Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., Bruce Beutler, M.D., and the late Ralph Steinman, M.D.

The $500,000 Albany Prize is the largest award in medicine and science in the United States. In total, 21 world-renowned investigators have been recipients of this prestigious award since its inception in 2001.

“We are proud to be among those who have honored Dr. Lefkowitz for his transformational work, and we join in celebrating his well-deserved honors,” said James J. Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center and chairman of the Albany Prize National Selection Committee. “His work has had profound impact on the development of new medications for so many people.”

Dr. Lefkowitz, a professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Duke University Medical Center, was honored in Albany as one of three investigators who determined how cells communicate with their environment through the use of receptors, or signaling pathways. Their groundbreaking discoveries of how receptors transmit signals from hormones, drugs and other stimuli to trigger action within the cell helped give rise to a new and rapid phase of drug development, including many of today’s most commonly used prescription drugs, such as better, safer beta blockers, cortisone, antihistamines, anti-depressants, estrogens, and contraceptives.

The two other 2007 recipients were Solomon Snyder, M.D., of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Ronald Evans, Ph.D., of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California.

2011 Albany Prize Winner Dr. Shinya Yamanaka Wins Nobel Prize

Stem cell scientist Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., of Kyoto University in Japan, who was honored  in 2011 with the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, was announced today as a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Dr. Yamanaka shares the Nobel Prize with Professor Sir John Gurdon of the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, England for their work that the Nobel committee says has “revolutionized our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.”

2011 Albany Prize Winner Dr. Shinya Yamanaka
2011 Albany Prize Winner Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD

Their studies found that mature cells can be changed back to stem cells, which can in turn become any type of cell. These iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells, which share nearly all the characteristics of embryonic stem cells, also can be made in limitless supply.

In 2006, to the surprise of the scientific community, Dr. Yamanaka reported that he had genetically re-programmed adult cells in mice into an embryonic state. That was followed by the 2007 discovery of human iPS cells, which he produced using human skin cells.

Their work holds significant potential to grow new tissue, thus developing new customized treatments for spinal cord injuries, Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s disease, and many other conditions.

Yamanaka shared the 2011 Albany Medical Center Prize with Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., of the Rockefeller University in New York City and James A. Thompson, V.M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine.

“Dr. Yamanaka’s scientific accomplishments in a relatively short period of time are remarkable and I extend my heartfelt congratulations to him on receiving this honor today. I have no doubt that his work will continue to have a profound impact on our ability to treat stubborn diseases and other conditions that afflict people worldwide,” said James J. Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center and chairman of the Albany Prize National Selection Committee.

Dr. Yamanaka is the fourth Albany Prize winner to go on to win a Nobel Prize. In 2009, Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., a 2007 recipient of the Albany Prize, was awarded the Nobel for her discovery of the molecular nature of telomeres. Last year, 2009 Albany Prize recipients Bruce Beutler, M.D., and the late Ralph Steinman, M.D., were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discoveries regarding the detailed workings of the immune system.

The Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, the largest award in medicine and science in the United States, was established in 2000 by the late Morris “Marty” Silverman.

2008 Albany Prize Winner Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D. Earns 2012 Greengard Prize

Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D., a 2008 winner of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, will be awarded the 2012 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize from The Rockefeller University. The prize, which honors female scientists who have made extraordinary contributions to biomedical science and carries an honorarium of $100,000, will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, November 29 at Rockefeller University's Caspary Auditorium in Manhattan.

Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D.
2008 Albany Prize Winner Joan A. Steitz, PhD
Dr. Steitz is a pioneer in the field of RNA biology whose discoveries have had an impact on patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases.

"Joan Steitz, in addition to being a leader in the field of RNA biology, has been a role model for young women seeking careers in biomedical research," says Dr. Greengard.
"Her success, in the face of gender discrimination early in her career, exemplifies the spirit of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize."

The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize was established by Paul Greengard, Ph.D., a professor at Rockefeller University and head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, and his wife, sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. Dr. Greengard created the annual award named in memory of his mother, who died giving birth to him. Since 2004, the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize has recognized female scientists who have made exceptional contributions to biomedical science..

"Any recognition that calls attention to women's accomplishments in science is important for the future participation of women," says Dr. Steitz. "I am deeply honored to be a recipient of the Greengard Prize."

Dr. Steitz is the Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is best known for discovering and defining the function of RNA protein complexes called small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs), which occur only in the cells of higher organisms. Dr. Steitz's research may yield new insights into the diagnosis and treatment of lupus, an autoimmune disease that develops when patients make antibodies against their own DNA, snRNPs, or ribosomes, the body's protein-making factories.

In addition to the Greengard Prize and the Albany Prize, Dr. Steitz has also received the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the UNESCO-L'Oreal Award for Women in Science and the Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and she received the National Medal of Science in 1986. Since 2007, she has served as a member of the Rockefeller University's Committee on Scientific Affairs, a committee that advises the President and the Board of Trustees on all scientific matters.