The 2016 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine has been awarded to an Italian and American/British scientist for work that could have significant implications for medical research – including cancer. Each winner will receive CHF700,000 ($697,990) to carry out further studies.
Andrea Ballabio, who specialises in genetics and medicine, won the prize for his work on lysosomes – subcellular sacs that contain enzymes responsible for degrading and recycling cell waste. Ballabio’s team identified a master gene that controls lysosomal function, and promotes clearance of accumulated material. Their findings could allow researchers to treat human diseases that result when lysosome function goes awry, including cancer, obesity and infections.
The other winner of the prize is biochemist John Diffley, for his contribution to the understanding of DNA replication. His research focuses on the mechanisms controlling the duplication of a cell’s chromosomes – a crucial process during which any errors could lead to cancer-causing mutations.
“The award is modelled on the Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology and is awarded for original thinking and discoveries that nobody imagined existed,” Jürg Schifferli, secretary of the scientific committee of the Louis-Jeantet Foundation, told swissinfo.ch.
Only researchers active in the Council of Europe member countries are eligible. So far, ten of the 84 winners have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.