First Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences awarded to Swiss scientist

Michael N. Hall, Professor of Biochemistry at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel and director of the Basel Signaling Alliance, was awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, 2014, yesterday in the U.S.A. This award honors Hall for his discovery of target of rapamycin (TOR), a central regulator of cell growth and metabolism. This is the first time that this prize, endowed with three million dollars, has been granted to a scientist in Switzerland. The Breakthrough Prize is sponsored, among others, by internet entrepreneurs including Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, and Sergey Brin, of Google.

Prof. Michael N. Hall

Yesterday, in Mountain View, California, the seven winners of this year's Breakthrough Awards were presented. Among them was Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, who was honored with a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. The prize is awarded for outstanding research achievements Research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.

The Breakthrough Prize was granted this year for the second time and is endowed with three million dollars for each awardee. Among the sponsors of the award are the Google founder Sergey Brin, the biotech entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki and the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

TOR – A key protein

Michael Hall, who works at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel since 1987, has been awarded this prize for the discovery of the protein «target of rapamycin» (TOR), which regulates both cell growth and cell size. Since the function of this protein is inhibited by the substance rapamycin, Hall named the growth regulator «target of rapamycin» or «TOR» for short. In TOR, Hall found a key protein in cellular communication, which though producing a pharmacological blockade can contain the uncontrolled cell division that is typical for cancer.

Hall's discovery has contributed to a deeper understanding of the most fundamental life processes such as cell division, growth and death. Insights into TOR signaling pathways and their dysregulation in disease may provide new therapeutic strategies for a wide range of diseases.

Hall has published his research findings in over 160 scientific articles and currently leads a team of 12 researchers. He is a member of several advisory and editorial boards and professional societies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is the recipient of many awards, including the Cloëtta Prize (2003), the Louis-Jeantet Prize (2009) and the Marcel Benoist Prize (2012). Hall is a SystemsX.ch steering committee member and is Director of the Basel Signaling Alliance. Michael N. Hall is a Swiss-American dual citizen and lives with his family in Basel.

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