Two past Presidents of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), Don Cleveland and Peter Walter, are among the winners of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Cleveland, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, was 2013 ASCB President and Walter, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, was 2016 President.
"This is a fantastic day for cell biology and for the ASCB," said Erika Shugart, ASCB's CEO. Shugart continued, "Both Peter and Don have been strong leaders for the ASCB as well as being amazing scientists. We are pleased that the Breakthrough Prize is once again recognizing the importance of cell biology."
Walter's research focuses on understanding how cells control the quality of their proteins and organelles during homeostasis and stress. His lab at UCSF works on identifying the machinery and mechanisms that ensure proper protein synthesis, folding, and targeting, as well as the pathways that allow organelles to communicate and regulate their abundance.
Cleveland has made pioneering discoveries of the mechanisms of chromosome movement and cell-cycle control during normal cellular division, as well as of the principles of neuronal cell development and their relationship to the defects that contribute to inherited neurodegenerative disease. Most recently, his research has achieved a significant breakthrough in treating Huntington's disease, an inherited and degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure. A clinical trial in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has been proved to be safe, and follow-up trials in ALS and in Huntington's disease are expected to initiate in 2017.
The Breakthrough Prize was founded by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner to celebrate achievements in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences and Mathematics. The awards are presented at an annual globally televised ceremony, followed by a day of lectures and discussions co-sponsored by Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, San Francisco. In addition to the Breakthrough Prize, awards for junior researchers in mathematics and physics are also handed out yearly.
The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) is a professional society of basic biomedical researchers with members in all 50 states and over 60 nations around the world. Previous ASCB members who have won the Breakthrough Prize include David Botstein and Eric Lander.