"Judah Folkman absolutely pioneered this field," says Bruce Zetter, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Children's Hospital Boston, and one of the nominators of Folkman for the award. "His angiogenesis concepts were ahead of their time, but through outstanding creativity and dogged persistence, he ultimately proved his theories. The Alpert Prize was created to support investigators whose innovative work has led to new therapies. Dr. Folkman's work is just such a tale, and is one that will benefit many patients with a variety of diseases," says Zetter, who is also the Charles Nowiszewski professor of cancer biology at Harvard Medical School.
"I am extremely grateful for receiving the Alpert prize," says Folkman. "The resources will allow graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in my lab to pioneer novel research concepts themselves. Such support is tremendously beneficial to the research community and ultimately the development of new therapies."
For nearly 40 years, Folkman, director of Children's Hospital's Vascular Biology Program, has pursued his groundbreaking hypothesis that new blood vessel development is central to various disease processes. Folkman and his research colleagues showed that cancer and other diseases are supported by excessive or insufficient blood vessel growth.
Due in large measure to Folkman's innovative research, more and more researchers throughout the world are studying the complex biology creating and halting the formation of the body's blood vessels. Knowledge from angiogenesis research has allowed clinical investigators to better understand how some already active drugs function, and by using novel dosage strategies, attack disease more effectively.
Folkman and other investigators have also isolated molecules that specifically regulate angiogenesis, some of which are now FDA approved or in the drug-testing pipeline. Unlike traditional cancer therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation, anti-angiogenic approaches appear to have few side effects, and drug resistance has not been observed.
New blood vessel inhibitors and stimulators are being studied to treat many diseases including macular degeneration, a condition that afflicts more than 11 million Americans and countless others throughout the world. Angiogenesis inhibitors have helped restore the sight of 40% of the 1.5 million Americans made blind from macular degeneration. In addition to various forms of cancer, this work holds promise for patients with arthritis, endometriosis, hemangiomas and other non-cancer diseases, and coronary heart disease.
Therapies and treatment strategies based on angiogenesis research now benefits many thousands of patients.
Photo credit: Harvard University News Office
The Warren Alpert Foundation
Chelsea, Massachusetts native Warren Alpert first established the prize in 1987 after reading that Kenneth Murray of the University of Edinburgh had developed a successful vaccine for hepatitis B. Alpert decided immediately that he would like to reward such far-reaching breakthroughs, so he called Murray to tell him he had won a prize, and then set about creating the foundation.
To choose subsequent recipients of the prize, Alpert asked Dr. Daniel Tosteson, then dean of Harvard Medical School, to convene a panel of experts to select and honor renowned scientists from around the world whose research has had a direct impact on the treatment of disease.
Each year the Foundation receives 30 to 50 nominations for the Alpert Prize from scientific leaders worldwide. Prize recipients are selected by the foundation's scientific advisory board, made up of internationally recognized biomedical scientists and now chaired by Joseph B. Martin, MD, PhD, dean of Harvard Medical School.
Alpert, a first-generation American, started his business in 1950 with, as he tells it, "$1,000 and a used car." Today, Warren Equities and its subsidiaries—which market petroleum, food and spirits, and engage in transportation and real estate improvements—generate approximately $1 billion in annual revenue and have more than 2,200 employees in 11 states. The Warren Alpert Foundation does not solicit funds. It is a private, philanthropic effort funded solely by Mr. Warren Alpert, Chairman of Warren Equities, Inc.
John Lacey, Harvard Medical School, 617-432-0442 (firstname.lastname@example.org)