David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., was named today as winner of the 5th annual Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences by the Foundation for the NIH, for his work in discovering the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) cellular pathway as a key regulator of growth and metabolism in response to nutrients.
A pioneer in the study of nutrient sensing and the impact of caloric restriction on health and lifespan, Dr. Sabatini is a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and a professor of biology at MIT, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
His research has identified the specific protein components of the mTOR pathway—including mTOR and two large complexes that contain it, called mTOR Complex 1 (mTORC1) and Complex 2 (mTORC2). Dr. Sabatini’s work has also documented how mTOR regulation and dysregulation affects normal and diseased physiology.
According to the Foundation, Dr. Sabatini’s research suggests that sometime in the future, the mTOR pathway could be manipulated to protect against age-related diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.
That could be accomplished by fooling the body into mimicking a fasting state even under nutrient replete conditions, since caloric restriction is associated with a slowdown in cellular aging, the Foundation added.
“Inhibitors of mTOR are already used in the clinic for various reasons, including to treat cancer and block organ rejection, and my hope is that our work will lead to new generations of drugs with wider impacts, such as in treating age-related diseases,” Dr. Sabatini said in a statement. “I am very grateful to all my lab members whose dedication, creativity, and perseverance has led to our discoveries and this award is a recognition of our accomplishments.”
The Lurie Prize is designed to recognize outstanding achievement by a promising scientist age 52 or younger. The Prize includes a $100,000 honorarium, donated by philanthropist and FNIH Board member Ann Lurie. She is president of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation (which she founded with her late husband, Robert) and the president of Lurie Holdings.
Dr. Sabatini will be presented with the Lurie Prize on May 17 in Washington, DC. He was selected for the award by a jury of six distinguished biomedical researchers. The jury was chaired by Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., distinguished service professor of neuroscience, pharmacology & psychiatry, The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, and vice chairman for science of the FNIH.
“Dr. Sabatini’s research is seminal, innovative and impactful—attributes that are the hallmarks of all Lurie Prize awardees,” added Maria C. Freire, Ph.D., president and executive director of the FNIH.
Dr. Sabatini received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed undergraduate work in biological sciences at Brown University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous recipients of the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences are Jeannie T. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who won the honor last year; Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., from Stanford University (2015); Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., from the University of California, Berkeley (2014); and Ruslan M. Medzhitov, Ph.D., from Yale University School of Medicine (2013).