Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Translate
Translate
menu iconMenu
search iconSearch

UC San Diego Cancer Scientist Wins $3 Million Award

 

February 20, 2013  |  

Napoleone Ferrara one of 11 winners of inaugural Breakthrough Prize
 
Napoleone Ferrara, MD, the molecular biologist credited with helping decipher how tumors grow and now senior deputy director for basic sciences at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, was today named one of 11 recipients of the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which comes with a $3 million cash award.

 Napoleon Ferrara

Napoleone Ferrara, MD

The prize is the collaborative creation of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan; Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, founder of the genetics company 23andMe; and Yuri Milner, a Russian businessman and philanthropist who established a similar prize in fundamental physics last year, when $3 million each was awarded to nine researchers.

The Breakthrough Prize honors life scientists who have ambitiously pushed the boundaries of their disciplines, taken risks and impacted lives and society.

Ferrara, who is also a distinguished professor of pathology in the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology, was recognized for his work identifying the role of the human VEGF gene in promoting angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels that can feed tumor growth – and subsequent development of two major monoclonal antibody drugs: Bevacizumab (marketed as Avastin), which is used to treat multiple forms of cancer, including breast, brain and colorectal, and ranibizumab (marketed as Lucentis), which treats wet age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

"Napoleone's work has profoundly advanced our basic understanding of how cancer develops and grows," said David Brenner, MD, vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the UC San Diego School of Medicine. "More importantly, he helped create brand new drugs and therapies based upon that research to effectively treat a broad range of cancers and other conditions. He continues with those efforts today, pushing himself and colleagues to find better answers to cancer."   

Ferrara, 56, came to UC San Diego last year after a long career at Genentech, the San Francisco-based biotechnology company where he did much of his ground-breaking work. He said that when Breakthrough Prize Foundation president Arthur D. Levinson, chairman of Apple and a former Genentech chief executive, called to tell him he had won, he was “very much astonished. I didn’t know the award existed.”

“The thing I am most proud of,” said Ferrara, “is that we’ve advanced the understanding of basic mechanisms of cancer and we’ve been able to help people, both in fighting cancer and restoring visual acuity. It’s that kind of work that I’m continuing at Moores Cancer Center, where I’ll be able to work closely with clinicians and develop new clinical trials.”

Scott Lippman, MD, director of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, said the Breakthrough Prize justly recognizes Ferrara’s seminal research and how it “has changed therapy for cancer and eye diseases.”

“His work epitomizes our overall effort at Moores Cancer Center: high-risk, high-gain, high-impact achievement and innovation in taking basic-science discovery to the clinic and transforming cancer care.”

Joining Ferrara among the first winners of the Breakthrough Prize are:

  • Cornelia I. Bargmann, Rockefeller University, who studies the nervous system and human behavior
  • David Botstein, Princeton University, who uses the human genome to map disease biomarkers
  • Lewis C. Cantley, Weill Cornell Medical College, who discovered a family of enzymes related to cell and cancer growth
    Hans Clevers, Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, who has parsed how stem cell processes go awry, resulting in cancer
  • Eric S. Lander, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a leader in the Human Genome Project
  • Titia de Lange, Rockefeller University, who studies the protective tips of chromosomes called telomeres
  • Charles L. Sawyer, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who has investigated the signals that prompt a cell to become cancerous
  • Bert Vogelstein, Johns Hopkins University, who developed a model for how colon cancer progresses and discovered a protein that suppresses tumor growth
  • Robert A. Weinberg, MIT, who discovered the first human oncogene
  • Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto University and Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, for his fundamental research of stem cells

The founders of the Breakthrough Prize intend their awards – which will consist of five honorees in subsequent years, each receiving $3 million – to boost public attention and awareness of the major players and advances in the life sciences.

There are few limitations on who can win: Anyone can be nominated online at the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation’s website (www.breakthroughprizeinlifesciences.org). There are no restrictions on age or the number of people who can share the award. The cash prize comes with no constraints on how it can be spent. And individuals can win multiple times. This year’s 11 recipients will form a committee to select future winners.

# # #

Media Contact: Scott LaFee, 619-543-6163, slafee@ucsd.edu


Related Specialties

Cancer



Media Contact

Related News

4/20/2015
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center have discovered a molecular mechanism that connects breast tissue stiffness to tumor metastasis and p ...
4/20/2015
A decrease in the amount of time spent eating and an increase in overnight fasting reduces glucose levels and may reduce the risk of breast cancer among women, report University of California, San Die ...
4/16/2015
The increase in use of e-cigarettes has led to heated debates between opponents who question the safety of these devices and proponents who claim the battery-operated products are a useful cessation t ...
4/9/2015
A family of proteins called G proteins are a recognized component of the communication system the human body uses to sense hormones and other chemicals in the bloodstream and to send messages to cells ...
2/25/2015
Writing in the February 25 online issue of Nature, an international team of scientists, headed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, report finding new links be ...
2/25/2015
Writing in the February 25 online issue of the journal PLOS ONE, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, with collaborators from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), h ...
2/13/2015
While genomics is the study of all of the genes in a cell or organism, epigenomics is the study of all the genomic add-ons and changes that influence gene expression but aren’t encoded in the DNA sequ ...
2/2/2015
Officials of the University of California, San Diego and Perdana University in Malaysia have announced a plan to collaborate on further development of the Perdana University Graduate School of Medicin ...


Share This Article



Follow Us: