Health + Behavior

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA names winner of 2018 Switzer Prize

David Sabatini of MIT and Whitehead Institute honored for research on cell growth; studies show promise for treating cancer and other diseases

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David M. Sabatini
Courtesy of David Sabatini

David Sabatini’s research “has spurred the development of new classes of drugs with exciting potential to treat cancer and other diseases.”

Dr. David Sabatini, an MIT biologist and associate director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, will be the 2018 recipient of the Switzer Prize awarded by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Sabatini’s pioneering discoveries of mechanisms that regulate cell growth are propelling research into potential treatments for cancer and other diseases.

As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Sabatini identified the central protein, mTOR, that turns cell growth on and off. At the Whitehead Institute and MIT, his laboratory’s research uncovered both the upstream regulators that control when mTOR is active and the downstream effectors through which mTOR promotes cell growth. The identification of this critical signaling pathway central to cancer, metabolism and aging provides a rich set of targets for drug development.

“In elucidating the fundamental pathway for regulating cell growth with a breadth that covers the identification of the molecular players in the pathway and a depth that provides insights into the mechanisms of how the players work, David Sabatini’s research has spurred the development of new classes of drugs with exciting potential to treat cancer and other diseases” said Dr. Kelsey Martin, dean of the Geffen School of Medicine.

UCLA’s medical school awards the Switzer Prize annually to a researcher whose work enhances the understanding of human physiology or biological systems. The prize is intended to recognize research excellence in the biological or biomedical sciences essential to achieving breakthroughs in medical treatments.

Sabatini, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, said he was pleased to be selected for the award.

“It will be an honor and a privilege to accept the UCLA’s Switzer Prize on behalf of my many research collaborators, without whom the work would not be possible, and on behalf of patients whose courage inspires us all,” Sabatini said.

Sabatini is scheduled to deliver the 2018 Switzer Prize lecture at UCLA on Dec. 13, 2018. He will receive a $25,000 honorarium and a statuette.

Sabatini earned his medical degree and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Dickson Prize in Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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