The Sjöberg Prize honors scientist for pioneering research in the field of cancer research. Michael Hall, Biozentrum of the University of Basel, and Prof. David M. Sabatini, are jointly awarded for their discovery of the master regulator of cell growth, the target of rapamycin (TOR) kinase. This discovery allowed scientists to better understand cell growth and its importance in development, aging and diseases such as cancer. The award ceremony will take place in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 29th April, 2020, in conjunction with the Academy's Annual Meeting.
The Sjöberg Prize was established in 2016 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to honor scientists that have made significant contributions to cancer research. The annually awarded prize consists of a total sum of approximately USD 1 million and is funded by The Sjöberg Foundation. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decides upon the Sjöberg Laureates.
The discovery of mTOR
Michael Hall discovered the highly conserved, nutrient-activated protein kinase TOR, and elucidated its role as a central controller of cell growth. This led to a fundamental change in scientists’ understanding and appreciation of cell growth. It is not a spontaneous process that just happens, but rather a highly regulated, plastic process controlled by TOR-dependent signaling pathways. As a central controller of cell growth, TOR plays a key role in development and aging, and is implicated in various disorders including cancer, cardiovascular disease, allograft rejection, obesity and diabetes. Rapamycin is used in the clinic in three of the above major therapeutic areas, and several new mammalian TOR (mTOR) inhibitors are currently being evaluated as anti-cancer drugs.
Since the initial discovery, TOR-related research has expanded to include the basic research community, medical researchers and the pharmaceutical industry. Michael Hall is its founder and has remained a major leader in this highly competitive field for over 25 years. His recent work continues to focus on mechanisms of mTOR signaling, elucidating the roles of mTOR in metabolic tissues and tumors. The aim of his work is to understand how mTOR controls whole body growth and metabolism. The goal of the tumor research, in mice and humans, is to understand mechanisms of tumorigenesis and evasive resistance to targeted cancer therapies. In summary, Hall's studies on TOR have spanned yeast to human to elucidate fundamentally and clinically important biology.
Hall has been a researcher and faculty member at the University of Basel since 1987, and served as Vice-Director of the Biozentrum from 2002 to 2009, and from 2013 to 2016. A Swiss citizen born in Puerto Rico, Hall received his Ph.D. from Harvard and completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the University of California, San Francisco.