Albert Lasker
Basic Medical Research Award

Welcome Remarks from Lasker Chairman Alfred Sommer, and President Maria Freire

Welcome Remarks from Lasker Chairman Alfred Sommer
Alfred Sommer I'm Al Sommer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. I appreciate your gathering here today to celebrate outstanding contributions to medical science and advances in our population's health.

Members of our Board of Directors regularly pose the same critical question in every discussion: "What would Mary have done?"

I've always thought this was a needless diversion, because none of us, individually or collectively, have the passionate commitment and extraordinary standing that was possessed by Mary Lasker (excepting, perhaps, this year's recipient of the Public Service Award).

The Board's more relevant issue has always been to carry out the mission that Mary set for the Foundation.

About that there is little dissent: to showcase the benefits of investing in medical research! And the best way she knew, expressed as a Birthday gift to her beloved husband, Albert — were these annual Awards.

Three Lasker awards are being bestowed this year.

The Basic Research Award recognizes paradigm-changing discoveries that advance our understanding of the mechanisms of disease; insights that might one day be turned into beneficial medical advances.

The Clinical Research Award recognizes downstream discoveries that have demonstrably advanced the treatment and prevention of disease.

The Public Service Award, which is bestowed only once every two years, recognizes an individual who has contributed in extraordinary ways to the advancement of human health; not by a specific research discovery, but by creating and supporting scientifically-based policies and programs that have greatly advanced the human condition.

To begin this celebration, I'd like to ask my fellow Board members to stand and be recognized.

Every year, this Awards luncheon is graced by the attendance of a number of former Lasker Laureates. I'd like to ask my fellow Lasker Laureates to stand and be recognized.

It is no secret that the high regard in which the Lasker Awards are held is due in large measure to the dedicated, insightful work of our illustrious Juries. I'd like to ask those members with us today, from the Medical Research Award Jury, so ably chaired by Joe Goldstein, and the Public Service Award Selection Committee, ably chaired by Harvey Fineberg, to stand and be recognized.

All of you at this luncheon are distinguished in your own right, and add luster to this important occasion. I thank you for your participation. I am particularly delighted that we are joined by our new Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, and our new Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden.

Joining me on the Dais are this year's Lasker Laureates, who will be introduced in due course. In addition, I am joined by Harold Varmus, President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a member of the Awards Jury, and a recipient of both the Lasker Award in Basic Research and the Nobel Prize in Medicine; Joe Goldstein, a member of the Foundation's Board of Directors and Chairman of our Scientific Awards Jury, and a recipient of both the Lasker Award in Basic Research and the Nobel Prize in Medicine; Michael Bishop, immediate past-Chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, a member of the Awards Jury, and a recipient of both the Lasker Award in Basic Research and the Nobel Prize in Medicine (You've no doubt detected a certain rhythm to these descriptions. Joe Goldstein will dilate on this later in the program); and, finally, Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and the Chairman of the Public Service Award Selection Committee.

I'm delighted to now turn these proceedings over to our esteemed President of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, Dr. Maria Freire.

Welcome Remarks from Lasker President Maria Freire
Maria Freire Thank you, Al. I am delighted to add my welcome and to thank you all for joining us in celebrating the 2009 Lasker Laureates.

For over 60 years, the Lasker Foundation has brought scientific and policy achievements to the public's eye, illustrating the important bond between basic scientific discoveries and clinical advances.

This year's Awards are particularly notable because they so beautifully showcase the different aspects of the scientific enterprise.

The 2009 Lasker Basic Medical Research Award demonstrates how fundamental scientific breakthroughs, even those occurring nearly 50 years ago, can open completely unexpected avenues of inquiry that lead to innovation and ground-breaking findings.

The 2009 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award proves that collaboration between scientists and physicians from academia and industry can spur discovery and accelerate development of revolutionary treatments.

And this year's Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award recognizes the enormous positive impact that informed public health policy can have in altering unhealthy life habits.

Together, these awards underscore that as the public relies upon science to cure and prevent disease, science also requires the political will to sustain new biomedical endeavors and build upon what has already been achieved.

The Lasker Awards embody what is possible; and these triumphs remind us of the excitement and possibilities of what is to come.

Today, more than ever, with competing priorities in times of economic uncertainty, we must continue to champion investment in basic and clinical research and to support enlightened public policy.

People around the world await the promise of improved health and extended lives. It is our obligation to match their expectations.

As is tradition, we have asked Joe Goldstein to say a few words. Joe has a way of bringing art to these proceedings by miraculously linking it with biology. Without any further ado, let me ask Joe to come to the podium. Joe...