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Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine

About the Award
  • Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine front pageThe Medical and Health Science Center of the University of Debrecen has announced an international annual prize in molecular medicine „Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” offered to encourage and recognize extraordinary and sustained contributions to biomedical research. This prestigious award will be awarded each fall to a scientist, or group, whose work has lead to significant advances in the fields of molecular medicine with demonstrated benefits applied to improved patient care. The annual award will be 10,000 Euro. The nominations will be evaluated by a twelve member nomination committee comprised of preeminent medical scholars, physicians, professors and biomedical researchers.

    Purpose: To encourage and recognize extraordinary and sustained contributions to improving and promoting innovative biomedical research.

    Eligibility: Any scientist or group whose work has led to significant advances in the fields of molecular medicine with demonstrated benefits applied to improved patient care.

    Award Criteria: This award has been created to provide international recognition to a scientist, or scientists, who have made extraordinary and sustained leadership contributions to innovative biomedical research.
    Each year’s Award winner will have demonstrated significant outcomes that offer medical value of international importance. Award winner activities will include basic science investigations and clinical research leading to new discoveries and improved clinical outcomes.

    Those honoured will be scientists whose accomplishments and outcomes have been demonstrated with preference to accomplishments in the past decade. The recipient has full discretionary use of the Award, although it is the Award Committee’s hope that at least a portion of the award will be used to advance further positive outcomes in his or her field of expertise.

    Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine back pageNominations: Nominations for the Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine will be accepted through May 15. A letter of nomination must include a description of the nominee’s extraordinary or sustained contribution to innovative biomedical research. The Selection Committee also requests two additional letters of support for each nomination, as well as the curriculum vitae of each person nominated, with bibliography of important publications and articles. No self nominations will be accepted. The selection of the winner will be decided by secret vote of the Full Professors of the Medical and Health Science Center.

    Award Ceremony: The annual presentation of this award with an inaugural lecture will take place in November, in Debrecen.

  • Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine diplomaNominations by interested parties may be directed to
    Prof. György Paragh, President of UDMHSC
    „Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine”
    Medical and Health Science Center of the University of Debrecen
    Debrecen, Nagyerdei krt. 98. H-4032

  • Award winners

    2013. Donald M. Bers

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2013. has been bestowed on Donald M. Bers.Professor Donald M. Bers made extraordinary achievements on the cellular and molecular factors that regulate heart excitation and contraction. Much of his scientific work has focused on calcium regulation in the heart, but this includes fundamental quantitative mechanistic characterization of ion transporters and channels, electrophysiology, excitation-contraction coupling, myofilament activation, regulation of mitochondrial calcium and energetics, cellular kinase signaling, systolic dysfunction and arrhythmogenesis in hypertrophy and heart failure, always with an eye toward both integrative aspects of cardiac function with clinical relevance and identification of novel therapeutic targets in cardiovascular disease. The experimental approaches used are multidisciplinary including physiology, biophysics, molecular biology, biochemistry, real-time dynamic confocal and total internal reflection fluorescence imaging and computational modeling.
    He has written the remarkable single authored monograph Excitation-Contraction Coupling and Cardiac Contractile Force, which was originally published in 1991 and in a completely revised 2nd Edition in 2001. This eminently readable monograph remains an indispensable reference for students and working scientists alike.
    One of the very recent discoveries published in the journal Nature by Professor Bers and his collaborators helps to explain why diabetes mellitus is a significant independent risk factor for heart disease. Professor Bers and his team showed that high blood glucose levels characteristic of diabetes caused a sugar molecule (O-linked N-acetylglucosamine, or O-GlcNAc) in heart muscle cells to fuse to a specific site on a protein known as calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, or CaMKII. CaMKII has important roles in regulating normal calcium levels, electrical activity and pumping action of the heart. Its fusion with O-GlcNAc, however, led to chronic overactivation of CaMKII and pathological changes in the finely tuned calcium signaling system it controls, triggering full-blown arrhythmias in just a few minutes. This finding is the first time a biological pathway that is activated when blood sugar levels are abnormally high and causes irregular heartbeats, a condition known as cardiac arrhythmia that is linked with heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
    Taken together, the scientific achievements of Professor Bers undoubtedly contributed to our understanding of the fine regulation of cardiomyocyte function and for the development of treatments for cardiovascular diseases.
    Professor Donald M. Bers is awarded the “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” for his original and significant contribution to understanding of the cellular and molecular factors involved in the control of cardiac muscle contraction, particularly as modulated by intracellular calcium ions and intracellular signaling during health and disease.
    Professor Donald M. Bers has had a remarkable life and career in medical research. Born in 1953 in New York he completed his undergraduate studies in 1974 in Boulder at the University of Colorado and obtained his PhD in 1978 in the Department of Physiology at the University of California in Los Angeles. From the UCLA he left to carry out postdoctoral research in the Department of Physiology of Edinburgh University in Scotland between 1979 and 1980.
    Dr. Bers began his faculty career at the University of California, Riverside where between 1982 and 1992 he rose from Assistant Professor to Professor and Interim Associate Dean of Biomedical Sciences. He was recruited to Loyola University Chicago as Chair of Physiology, where between 1992 and 2008 he invigorated the faculty and developed a new Cell and Molecular Physiology Graduate Program. Since 2008 he has been a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of California at Davis where he has developed strong research and teaching programs. He has always led an active research group and participated extensively in teaching in multiple programs. He has mentored many Ph.D. students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, and has served on many Dissertation Committees and Qualifying/Comprehensive Exam Committees at University of California, Riverside, Loyola University Chicago and University of California Davis. Professor Donald M. Bers has received many international awards for his discoveries. At present, Dr. Donald M. Bers is the Joseph Silva Endowed Chair for Cardiovascular Research, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at University of California, Davis. He has outstanding scientometric data; he has published more than 350 papers with a total number of citations more than 28000 and a Hirsch-index of 89.

    2012 Shigekazu Nagata

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2012. has been bestowed on Shigekazu Nagata.Professor Shigekazu Nagata made extraordinary achievements in discovering the first cell surface receptor, the triggering of which initiates the apoptotic cell program in our cells. He cloned its ligand and demonstrated that the ligand can act in both membrane bound and soluble forms. He contributed to the discovery, which described that cytotoxic T cells use Fas ligand to kill virally infected and tumor cells. He described that in the absence of Fas or Fas ligand autoimmunity develops, as the Fas/Fas ligand system contributes to the inhibition of the formation of the autoimmune clones, as well as to the death of the already useless immune cells at the end of the immune response. He discovered that oncogenic activation can also lead to cell killing and removal of the developing cancer cells via Fas. He coupled the Fas signaling pathway to the activation of ICE like proteases, caspases, and discovered how caspases regulate the degradation of DNA during the cell death program. His recent scientific interest turned to the clearance of apoptotic cells. He identified the Tim-4 phosphatidylserine receptor and MFG-8, a bridging molecule that couples the integrin receptors of macrophages to the phosphatidylserine of apoptotic cells. He coupled MFG-8 to certain forms of autoimmunity, and provided evidence that impaired clearance of apoptotic cells can be a cause for the development of systemic lupus type autoimmunity. All his scientific work strongly contributed to our deeper understanding of the cell death program and its involvement in the regulation of immune functions, in the prevention of cancer and in the maintenance of the tissue homeostasis.

    Professor Shigekazu Nagata is awarded the “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” for his original and significant contribution to our understanding of the cell death program by discovering the cell surface cell death receptors and by describing its role in physiology and pathophysiology.
    Professor Shigekazu Nagata has had a remarkable life and career in medical research. Born in 1949 in Japan, he completed his undergraduate studies between 1968-72 in the Faculty of Science and his PhD studies in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Tokyo. He received his first position at the same university at the Institute of Medical Science, from where he left to carry out postdoctoral research in the Institute of Molecular Biology of the University of Zurich for 4 years. Following his return to Japan he received an assistant professor position at the Institute of Medical Science. In 1987 he was nominated to be the head of the Department of Molecular Biology, Osaka Bioscience Institute. Simultaneously, in 1995, he accepted the head position for the Department of Genetics at the Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University. Between 2002-2007 he acted also as the Professor for the Integrated Biology Laboratories, Graduate School of Frontier Bioscience, Osaka University. Since 2007 he is working as Professor in the Department of Medical Chemistry of the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University. Professor Shigekazu Nagata has received many international awards for his discoveries. He has outstanding scientometric data; he has published 307 papers, the total number of citations: 53801, and the Hirsch-index: 102

    2011 Sir Salvador Moncada

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2011. has been bestowed on Sir Salvador Moncada.Sir Salvador Moncada made extraordinary achievements in at least 3 fields of biomedical science. In the 1970s he described the structure of prostacycline, which acts as an effective vasodilator and also prevents blood platelets from clumping. In 1980 an elusive ‘endothelium-derived relaxing factor’ (EDRF) has been shown to cause smooth muscle in the vessel walls to relax. Moncada and his team showed that EDRF was, in fact, nitric oxide, which has since become appreciated as a neurotransmitter, a modulator of inflammation and a sensor of cellular distress as well as a regulator of vessel tone. The discovery of nitric oxide immediately explained a 100 year old puzzle as to why the compound nitro-glycerine was effective in treating Angina, because this substance was converted to nitric oxide in the tissues. Nitric oxide is now in clinical use to help lung maturation in premature babies. More recently, Moncada’s team discovered the mechanism responsible for coupling cell metabolism to cell proliferation.
    Sir Salvador Moncada is awarded the “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” for his original and significant contribution to understanding vascular homeostasis with special regard to the role of prostacycline and nitric oxide and for unraveling the biochemical mechanism connecting cell metabolism to cell proliferation. His groundbreaking research, which unraveled fundamental biochemical mechanisms operating in the blood vessels paved the way for new therapeutic approaches saving the lives of many patients.
    Salvador Moncada has had a remarkable life and career in medical research. Born in Honduras in 1944, he was educated at the University in El Salvador, from which he graduated in 1970 with a Medical Degree. He obtained his PhD in the early 1970s at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, where he contributed to the discovery that aspirin-like drugs inhibit prostaglandin biosynthesis, thus accounting for their analgesic, anti-pyretic and anti-inflammatory actions. In 1975 he joined the Wellcome Research Laboratories where, as Head of the Department of Prostaglandin Research, he initiated the work leading to the discovery of the enzyme thromboxane synthase and the vasodilator prostacyclin. This work contributed to the understanding of how low doses of aspirin prevent cardiovascular episodes such as myocardial infarction and stroke.
    He served as Director of Research at the Wellcome Research Laboratories from 1986 until 1995, during which time he oversaw the development of a number of drugs, including anti-epileptic, anti-migraine, antimalarial and anticancer drugs.
    In 1985 he began a project that led to the identification of nitric oxide as the biological mediator formerly known as endothelium-derived relaxing factor. He elucidated the pathway of the synthesis of nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine and discovered many of the biological activities of this novel mediator. His finding that nitric oxide is generated in the central nervous system led him to propose that the arginine-nitric oxide pathway is a widespread transduction mechanism for regulating cell function and communication.
    In 1996 Prof. Moncada moved to University College London to establish and direct the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, a centre of of excellence providing an interface between academia and industry. Work conducted by Sir Salvador’s lab in the Wolfson Institute lead to further important discoveries such as the regulation of mitochondrial oxygen consumption and mitochondrial biogenesis by nitric oxide and his team identified the coordinated regulation of cell metabolism and cell proliferation. This new line of research has solved a long-standing problem in biology and has significant implications for the understanding of normal and abnormal cell proliferation, for example in cancer.
    Salvador Moncada has naturally received many honours for his discoveries, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1988 and a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA in 1994, the same year that he was awarded a Royal Medal. He has also received many scientific prizes including the Amsterdam Prize for Medicine and the Spanish Prince of Asturias Prize for Science and Technology. But it is prof. Moncada’s standing in the international citation indexes that shows better than any award, what a huge impact he made in biomedicine. He is acknowledged as the most cited scientist in Europe and second most cited worldwide.

    2010 Yosef Yarden

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2010. has been bestowed on Yosef Yarden.Yosef Yarden is one of the world’s leaders in the field of oncogenic signal transduction. Yarden discovered two universal mechanisms underlying growth factor signaling, namely: receptor dimerization and receptor ubiquitination. In addition, Yarden discovered the family of Neuregulins, molecularly cloned multiple receptors and growth factors (GFs), and defined the family of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). Addressing one of the most oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinases, namely HER2/ErbB-2, Yarden discovered receptor heterodimerization and showed that the heterodimerizing ability of HER2 can explain the oncogenic action of the respective human oncogene. More recently, Yarden unveiled the growth factor-induced transcriptional programs of mRNAs and microRNAs, and demonstrated their relevance to cancer. From a conceptual perspective, Yarden introduced several new paradigms into the field, including network signaling by receptor tyrosine kinases, a systems biology-inspired understanding of molecular targeted therapy, and roles for derailed endocytosis in cancer. Prof. Yosef Yarden is awarded the “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” for his original and significant contribution to unraveling the biochemical mechanism in the development and multiplication of the cancerous cell, and particularly the role of growth factor receptors and signal transmitters; for his groundbreaking research, which paved the way for a new approach in the development of drugs that have been put into use and saved the lives of many cancer patients.
    Prof. Yosef Yarden was born in Israel in 1952. In 1979 he was awarded a B.Sc. in biology and geology by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with distinction. He completed his doctorate at the Weizmann Institute of Science with Joseph Schlessinger in 1985. He received his training in molecular biology at Genentech Inc. in the group headed by Alex Ullrich, in South San Francisco from 1985 till 1986. In 1986 he moved to the east coast to Cambridge and worked with Robert Weinberg for two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1989 he set up his own research laboratory at the Weizmann Institute. He was appointed as associate professor in1992, and professor in 1997 at the Department of Molecular Cell Biology. He is currently the Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School at the Weizmann Institute, Chair of the National Committee on Biotechnology and Chair of the Research Committee of the Israel Cancer Association. He previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Dean of the Faculty of Biology and Director of the Moross Cancer Research Institute.
    Prof. Yarden has dedicated his research to understanding the biological roles of hormone-like molecules, called growth-factors. He was involved in crucial discoveries that unraveled the roles of growth factors in cancer. He pioneered the isolation of several growth factors as well as their receptors, and his findings on the structure and function of growth factor receptors led to them being recognized as targets for cancer therapy. Thanks to his work several anti-cancer drugs were developed and have been proven effective.
    Among other honors and awards, Prof. Yarden received the Dudley Wright Research Award in Biomembranes, the Somech Sachs Prize in Chemistry, the Andre Lwoff Prize, the Lombroso Award for Cancer Research, the Michael Bruno of the Yad Hanadiv Fund, the Teva Founders' Prize the MERIT Award of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the EMET Prize of Israel.
    His scientific work has been published in more than 270 articles in international journals and with over 31,000 citations. His Hirsch index is 88, which also supports his exceptional scientific achievements. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network

    2009 Axel Ullrich

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2009. has been bestowed on Axel Ullrich.Professor Ullrich's work in the field of signal transduction research has elucidated major fundamental molecular mechanisms that govern the physiology of normal cells and allowed insights into pathophysiological mechanisms of major human diseases. For over 25 years Prof. Ullrich has been a leader in gene technology, translating basic science discoveries into medical applications. This led in the eighties to the development of Humulin (human Insulin for the treatment of diabetes; Lilly), the first therapeutic agent to be developed through gene-based technology and the first biotechnology product ever. Another biotechnology product that is based on Prof. Ullrich's work is Trastuzumab (trade name: Herceptin), the first target-directed, gene-based cancer therapy for the treatment of metastatic breast carcinoma (Genentech/Roche). Prof. Ullrich's work has also led to the development of the multi-targeted drug SU11248/SUTENT which has successfully passed Phase III clinical trials and was submitted to the FDA for approval by Pfizer as a cancer therapeutic.
    Prof. Ullrich has been a leader in international biotechnology development with activities stretching from Germany, to the USA, Singapore and Australia. He is a founder of three biotechnology companies - SUGEN (USA), Axxima Pharmaceuticals (Germany) and U3 Pharma AG (Germany). In addition he has served on numerous Boards of Directors and Science Advisory Boards of biotechnology companies including SUGEN, BioImage (Denmark), Bionomics (Australia), Cryptome Pharmaceuticals (Australia) and S*Bio (Singapore), and the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany).

    Axel Ullrich born October 19, 1943, Lauban, Schlesien, is a German cancer researcher and has been the Director of Molecular biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany since 1988. His research has primarily focused on signal transduction. After taking a degree in biochemistry at the University of Tübingen, Germany, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in Molecular Genetics in 1975. He then did his postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco from 1975 to 1977 and then worked as a senior scientist at Genentech in San Francisco, California from 1978 to 1988. Since 1988, Prof. Ullrich has been Director of the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried (Germany) and currently he is a visiting scientist at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore and Research Director of the Singapore Onco Genome Project. He is an Honorary Professor of the Second Military Medical University (Shanghai, China) and the University of Tübingen and elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization, the German Academy of Natural Scientists "Leopoldina" and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
    Among other honors and awards, Prof. Ullrich received the Robert Koch Prize, the Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award of the American Association of Cancer Research and the King Faisal Prize of Medicine. Professor Ullrich is also the winner of the 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research.
    His major contributions to science have led to his being appointed to advisory boards of internationally renowned institutions such as the Wistar Institute (USA), the Biomedicum (Finland), the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine (Germany) and the International Advisory Council of the EDB (Singapore). His scientific work has been published in more than 450 articles in international journals and with over 60,000 citations he is one of the ten most cited scientists over the past 25 years worldwide. He is listed by the Institute for Scientific Information as a highly cited biologist and he is also in the top ten of H-index of living biologists. In 2001, Time Magazine Europe has named Dr. Ullrich as one of 25 "tech leaders who are changing how we work, live and play".

    2008 Bruce M. Spiegelman, Harvard University, USA

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2008. has been bestowed on Bruce M. Spiegelman.Bruce Spiegelman is professor at the Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School and at the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

    Dr Spiegelman received his PhD from Princeton University in biochemistry in 1978 under the mentorship of Marc Kirschner. He carried out post-doctoral training between 1979-1982 at the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Howard Green. He joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1982 where he is currently professor of Cell Biology and Cancer Biology since 1993.

    His research interest is centered on the molecular basis of cell differentiation and tissue development, using adipogenesis as a model system. He is also interested in the biochemical mechanisms of metabolic diseases relating to adipogenesis, especially obesity and insulin-resistant diabetes (NIDDM). In addition, his laboratory has a major interest in trying to alter cancer cell growth by stimulating pathways of terminal differentiation.

    He has received many awards and honors for his work. Among others he has been an established investigator of the American Heart Association 1987-1992. He is the recipient of the MERIT Award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease, NIH, the Heinrich Wieland Prize for Lipid Research, the Bristol Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Metabolic Disease and the Elliot Joslin Medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2002 and as a Foreign Associate of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2006. He has published over 200 papers.

    2007 Alain Fischer, Descartes University, France

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2007. has been bestowed on Alain Fischer.Alain Fischer was born in 1949 in France. He studied medicine in Paris and specialized in pediatrics. He received his M.D. in 1979 and a PhD in immunology during the same year. After a post-doctoral stay at the University College in London, he started independent research in an INSERM unit at the Necker Hospital in Paris. In 1988, Alain Fischer became a professor in pediatric immunology. Since 1991, he directs the INSERM research unit for "Normal and pathological development of the immune system" and, since 1996, the clinical unit of Pediatric Immunology and Hematology at the Necker Hospital in Paris. He has been the President of the Immunology Committee at INSERM, Adviser for Medical Research at the Ministry of Research in France, Director of the French Program “Research on rare diseases”, Member of the Initiative Committee on the reform of the French research system, and Vice-President of the board of the Pasteur Institute.

    His main areas of research are the development of the lymphoid system, primary immunodeficiencies, genetics of immunological disorders and gene therapy. During the course of the last fifteen years Professor Fischer and his co-workers have analyzed the mechanisms of hereditary diseases of the immune system.

    He is the author of about 500 scientific papers, and editor of the European Journal of Immunology, International Immunology, EMBO Journal, EMBO reports, Clinical and Experimental Immunology, Annual Reviews of Immunology, and the Science.

    Professor Alain Fischer has received the Halpern Prize in 1984, the Behring-Metchnikoff Prize in 1992, the Prix du Comité du Rayonnement français in 1994, the Jung Prize for Medicine (Hamburg) in 1998, the prix Pierre Royer in 2000, the NRJ Foundation – Institut de France - Award in 2000, the 2001 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine (Geneva), the Novartis Prize for Clinical Immunology in 2001 and the A. Philipson Prize (Stockholm) in 2003. Alain Fischer is also a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization since 2002 and of the French Science Academy since 2002.

    2006 Ralph M. Steinman, Rockefeller University, USA

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2006. has been bestowed on Ralph M. Steinman.Dr. Ralph Steinman was born on January 14th, 1943 in Montreal, Canada. He has received his first degree in 1963 from the McGill University in Biochemistry and an M.D. degree in 1968 from Harvard Medical School, Magna Cum Laude. He was an intern and resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In 1970 he started a postdoctoral fellowship with Drs Zanvil Cohn and James Hirsch at the Rockefeller University in New York City. After finishing his fellowship he stayed at Rockefeller and raised through the ranks of Assistant and Associate Professor to Professor. In 1987 he became co-director of the Rockefeller-Cornell MD-PhD Program. Since 1988 he is a Professor and Senior Physician in the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology at Rockefeller University. In 1995 he became Henry G. Kunkel Professor and since 1998 he is the director of the Christopher Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases.

    Professor Steinman has been the recipient of numerous awards. These include the Emile von Behring Prize, the Rudolph Virchow Medal, the Max Planck Award and the Robert Koch Prize. Recently he has received the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Novartis Prize for Basic Immunology and New York City Mayor’s Award for Scientific Excellence. He holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Innsbruck, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, University of Nuremberg-Erlangen and he is Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He has been elected to membership of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2001 and became a member of the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2002. Professor Steinman serves as editor for several journals including the Journal of Experimental Medicine since and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has been chairing several conferences and has been plenary or keynote lecturer of almost all major meetings on dendritic cells and various aspects of immunology. His bibliography lists over 300 research articles and more than 50 book chapters.

    In the 1950s a fundamental theory of immunology was formulated by Frank Macfarlane Burnet. He proposed the clonal selection theory stating that lymphocytes proliferate in response to antigens only if the antigen matches their receptor. But an important question remained open: how was the antigen presented to initiate the response.

    During his medical training Dr Steinman felt that it was essential to understand and manipulate this initiation step to treat diseases. In order to answer some of these fundamental questions Dr Steinman joined the laboratory of Dr Zanvil Cohn a prominent macrophage biologist to study these accessory cells. During these studies using phase contrast microscopy he found a small number of extensively branched, motile and mitochondria-rich cells mixed with the macrophages. They realized that these cells were not macrophages and based on their morphology they called them dendritic cells. They published two groundbraking papers on this discovery in the Journal of Experimental Medicine in 1973 and 1974. Later they set out to identify “the function to the form” and by extensive characterization of this new cell type he was able to show that these express major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins required for antigen presentation to T cells. Using mixed leukocyte reaction a well-known technique used to mimic T cell-mediated rejection of donor tissue during transplantation Dr Steinman showed that dendritic cells could initiate the reaction 100-1000 times more potent than bulk spleen cells. Later his team was able to show that dendritic cells were equally potent at stimulating both T cell cytotoxicity and antibody response. In subsequent studies he described dendritic cell maturation - the process by which immature dendritic cells, which capture antigens in the peripheral tissues, become efficient initiators of immunity. The cell type Dr Steinman identified and characterized, the dendritic cell, proved to be the immune system’s primary antigen-presenting cell. This work resulted in the explosion of immunology and set the stage for research on the utility of dendritic cells as therapeutic tools.

    2005 Thomas A. Waldmann, National Institute of Health, USA

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2005. has been bestowed on Professor Thomas A. Waldmann.Dr. Thomas A. Waldmann was born on September 21st, 1930, in New York City, New York. He has received his first degree in 1951 from the University of Chicago, and an M.D. degree in 1955 from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1956 he has become a clinical associate, and in 1958 a fellow of the American Heart Association at the Metabolism Branch of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. At the National Cancer Institute he was appointed senior investigator in 1959, head of Immunology Section in 1968 and in 1971 the chief of Metabolism Branch, the position he fulfils till present.

    In his early studies, Dr. Waldmann defined the metabolism of various immunoglobulins, providing the scientific basis for the dosing schedules of monoclonals and their fragments that are now being employed for the treatment of patients with cancer. Over the past two decades, his pivotal studies have revolutionized our understanding of the cytokine/cytokine receptor systems that are central to the function of T-lymphocytes in normal and leukemic states. He defined the first IL-2 receptor subunit, IL-2R alpha using the first ever reported anti-cytokine receptor monoclonal antibody (anti-Tac) that he had developed. His seminal studies have culminated in the definition of the IL-2R as an exceptionally valuable target for therapy of leukemia. More recently, Dr. Waldmann’s co-discovery of IL-15 and his demonstration of its role in the development and persistence of NK-cells and CD8 memory T-cells provided the scientific basis for the incorporation of IL-15 into molecular vaccines for cancer. Furthermore, his observations led Dr. Waldmann to propose that IL-15 be used in place of IL-2 in the treatment of renal cell malignancy and malignant melanoma.

    Collectively, the studies of Dr. Waldmann have dominated the field of cytokines involved in T-cell immune responses. With over 680 publications, he is among the 40 most cited scientists of the world. He has been a pioneer and leader in the explosion of knowledge about monoclonal antibodies that has come of age and is now a dominant form of immunotherapy, with over 400 such agents in clinical trials; he is a world leader in the rational development and use of such monoclonal antibodies. His seminal discoveries which are at the cutting edge of scientific novelty and significance have been recognized by his invitation over 90 honorary lectures. As a result of landmark achievements, he has received many scientific prizes, including the Stratton Medal, the Paul Ehrlich Medal, the Lila Gruber Prize for Cancer Research, the Simon Shubitz Prize for Cancer Research, the CIBA-GEIGY Drew Award in Biomedical Research, the Abbott Prize in immunology, an Honorary Doctor from University of Debrecen, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research, as well as election to the Institute of Medicine, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and to the US National Academy of Sciences.

    2004 Sir Philip Cohen, Dundee University, UK

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2004. has been bestowed on Sir Philip Cohen.Philip Cohen was born in Edgeware, Middlesex on July 22, 1945. He obtained a BSc in Biochemistry with 1st Class Honours in 1966, and a PhD in Biochemistry in 1969 under the supervision of Michael Rosemeyer. From 1969-1971 he was a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow of the Science Research Council at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA with Edmond Fischer, the 1992 Nobel Laureate for Medicine. Philip Cohen was appointed to a Lectureship in Dundee in October 1971, being promoted to a readership in 1977 and to a Professorship in 1981. From 1975-78 he held a Special Research Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust and from 1979-1984 his salary was paid by the Medical Research Council. In 1984 he became one of the 18 Royal Society Research Professors, the position that he holds today. He is also Director of the Medical Research Council Protein Phosphorylation Unit and Director of the Wellcome Trust Building at the University of Dundee. During his 34 years in Dundee, The University of Dundee has become home to one of the UK’s most exciting biomedical clusters and has one of the largest life science and research communities outside of Oxford and Cambridge, with at least 25 biotech and life science companies deciding to locate in the city. Only last year, the world’s six largest pharmaceutical companies descended on Dundee to sign Professor Cohen and his colleagues up in a Ł15 million deal to research new drugs to fight cancer and other life threatening diseases. Pfizer recently described it as the company’s "most important academic collaboration worldwide".

    Professor Philip Cohen received many awards. In 1977 Philip Cohen was awarded an Anniversary prize of the Federation of the European Biochemical Societies and in the same year received The Colworth Medal of the British Biochemical Society. He was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 1982, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1984, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1984, a member of Academia Europea in 1990 and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1996. He received the Swiss Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine and gave the 1998 Croonian Lecture (the Royal Society of London's premier lecture in the Biological Sciences). In 1998 he was awarded a knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours list.

    Professor Sir Philip Cohen has published over 400 peer reviewed research papers, and given over 200 lectures at National and International Scientific meetings. Sir Philip Cohen named as the world's second most highly cited scientist in the fields of biology and biochemistry over the ten years between 1992 and 2002.

    2003 J. Craig Venter, USA

    The Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine 2003. has been bestowed on J. Craig Venter.Dr. Craig Venter is the President of the Center for the Advancement of Genomics. He is the former President and Founder of Celera Genomics. Dr. Venter has played a leading and vital role in sequencing and analyzing the human genome. This work has produced not only a once unimaginable body of knowledge, but also an intriguing array of questions for further inquiry and discovery. His accomplishments in decoding the genetic sequences of other organisms, particularly the fruit fly and mouse, have also provided important scientific insights, including a new understanding of the genetic relationship between species as well as human evolution. He has published over 200 research articles and is among the most frequently cited scientists in biology and medicine.

    He earned his Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego and became a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. While serving first as a Section Chief and then as a Lab Chief in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, he developed expressed sequence tags, a revolutionary new strategy for gene discovery. In 1992, he and his wife, Dr. Claire Fraser, founded The Institute for Genomic Research known, where he served as President and Chief Scientific Officer until 1998. Dr. Venter and his team decoded the genome of the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, making it the first free-living organism to have its full DNA deciphered and to date have sequenced over 30 genomes.

    Dr. Venter is the President and Chairman of three not-for-profit organizations: the Center for the Advancement of Genomics, the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation.

    Dr. Venter is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and scientific awards. Dr. Venter was also elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences.