The Lasker Foundation was created in 1945 by Mary and Albert Lasker to recognize and honor advances in medical science. Albert was an advertising executive and Mary was a powerful national advocate for medical research funding. Mary was especially ardent about cancer research, and her lobbying efforts helped pass the National Cancer Act in 1971. She also spearheaded efforts to increase the NIH (National Institutes of Health) budget and to create new institutes. For her work, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and was honored with the Mary Woodard Lasker Center for Health Research and Education at the National Institutes of Health.
Each year since 1945 the Foundation has presented the Lasker Awards to researchers whose work has had a major impact on health and medicine. These awards have been dubbed the “American Nobel’s” because 86 Lasker laureates have gone on to receive a Nobel Prize. This year’s Lasker Awards went to the developers of optogenetics (see TrueScience blog “Let There be Light”) and the researchers whose seminal work formed the foundation for the COVID mRNA vaccines (see TrueScience blog “Covid Vaccine Hesitancy”). Congratulations to the recipients and all the other scientists whose efforts advanced these technologies to the forefront of research and medicine.