22 January 2013

Director awarded prestigious prize

Professor Mike Stratton awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for medicine

Accumulation of mutations in a lifetime from fertilised egg to malignant cancer cell.

Accumulation of mutations in a lifetime from fertilised egg to malignant cancer cell. [EMBO Mol Med (2013) DOI: 10.1002/emmm.201202388.]

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Professor Mike Stratton, Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has been awarded the 2013 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, a major European award recognising excellence in biomedical research.

The Louis-Jeantet Prize for medicine is awarded each year to experienced researchers who have distinguished themselves in the field of biomedical research in Europe.

"I am deeply honoured to be recognised by an organisation that values and promotes the role of biomedical research in society," says Professor Stratton. "This honour is very much also for all those people who I have worked with over the years - their commitment and creativity has been a central driver in the studies and discoveries in which I have been involved and, indeed, a continuing inspiration to me. My research would clearly not have been possible at all without the commitment of many sponsors, most notably the Wellcome Trust, and I would also like to voice my sincere appreciation for their longstanding and unstinting support."

Professor Stratton's most notable achievements have been the discovery of the BRCA2 gene, mutations in which cause inherited predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer, demonstrating the presence of acquired mutations in the BRAF gene in 60% of cases of malignant melanoma, which has led to successful new treatments for this disease, and pioneering exploration of the genomes of human cancers.

" This is a fitting recognition for the tireless work that Mike and his team have put into understanding the genetics of cancer. "

Professor Sir Mark Walport

In 2000, Professor Stratton started the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which conducts high-throughput, systematic genome-wide searches for genetic mutations in human cancer. The aims of the Cancer Genome Project are to identify new cancer genes and to understand the underlying processes that result in the mutations that cause all cancers.

In 2007, he was one of the primary forces in the creation of an international collaboration to coordinate the search for cancer mutations. The International Cancer Genome Consortium was, and still is, an ambitious project. When it started, only a few human genomes had been sequenced; the consortium set out to sequence many thousand. This collaboration coordinates current and future large-scale projects to understand the genomic changes involved in cancer.

"This is a fitting recognition for the tireless work that Mike and his team have put into understanding the genetics of cancer," says Professor Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "Mike's research has already stimulated the development of a targeted therapy for malignant melanoma, and the insights his work is generating bring the hope of many more improvements to cancer treatment in the future."

Professor Stratton continues to use DNA sequencing to understand how cancers arise. Much of this still remains a mystery, but finding the answers is important and could lead to the discovery of fundamental causes of the disease. Professor Stratton will use the prize money to conduct further research into cancer genetics at the early stages of development of the disease.

Professor Stratton is a winner of the 2013 Louis-Jeantet Prize along with Professor Peter Hegemann from the Humboldt University, Berlin and Professor Georg Nagel from the University of Wurzburg. Their discovery of ion channels that can be activated by light has created a new and promising discipline within the field of neuroscience - 'optogenetics'. The award ceremony will be held on April 18 in Geneva.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

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The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.

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