The creators of "knockout" mice and the developer of in vitro fertilization have won this year's research awards from the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation in New York City, one of biomedicine's most prestigious prizes. Also honored is an epidemiologist who has battled smallpox and river blindness.
The award for basic medical research went to geneticists Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Martin Evans of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and Oliver Smithies of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. The three developed gene-targeting technology that allows scientists to breed mice with specific genes disabled. Researchers have used this knockout technology to determine the function of newly discovered genes and to create mouse models of genetically influenced human diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, and atherosclerosis.
In the clinical research category, Robert Edwards of the University of Cambridge won for the development of human in vitro fertilization. Research by Edwards and his colleague Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988, has led to the births of almost 1 million infants since the first "test tube baby" in 1978.
Finally, the award for public service in support of medical research and the health sciences went to William Foege, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now at Emory University in Atlanta. He outsmarted a burgeoning smallpox epidemic in Africa in 1966 and went on to help track down the causes of toxic shock syndrome and Reyes syndrome.
The Laskers, often viewed as warm-up awards for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, will be presented at a dinner in New York on 21 September. They're high in honor if not cash--prizes in each research category are accompanied by $50,000.