Science / Medicine : 2 California Scientists Win Research Awards
Two California scientists were named last week as winners of the 1991 Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards. The prestigious awards, which carry a stipend of $15,000, are frequently viewed as precursors of Nobel prizes. During the 45-year history of the awards, 49 recipients have subsequently received Nobels.
Caltech geneticist Edward B. Lewis shared one award with geneticist Christiane Nusslein-Volhard of Germany for their research into the genetics of fruit flies. The award was specifically for his discovery of the Bithorax complex, a cluster of genes in the fruit fly that control how the body segments develop.
Geneticist Yuet Wai Kan of UC San Francisco received a separate award for his pioneering research on the genetic basis of human diseases. In 1975, Kan discovered that a severe form of the blood disease alpha-thalassemia was caused by lack of a gene for one component of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin--the first time a gene deletion was recognized as the cause of a human disease.
Also last week, astronomer Allan Sandage of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s observatory in Pasadena won the $327,332 Crafoord Prize for 40 years of discoveries, including measurements of the age of the universe and how fast it is expanding. Sandage observed the deaths of so-called globular clusters to conclude that the universe is at least 10 billion years old. Subsequent studies have extended the age to 13 billion to 18 billion years.