The Lasker Award, sometimes referred to as the American Nobel, has been given to a group of biomedical investigators who were responsible for key breakthroughs in their respective fields.
Douglas Coleman and Jeffrey Friedman were singled out for their basic medical research work on leptin, a hormone which curbs appetite. Genentech's Napoleone Ferrara won for the discovery of VEGF, which paved the way for an anti-VEGF antibody that could treat wet age-related macular degeneration. And Oxford's David J. Weatherall won for his groundbreaking work on the blood disease thalassemia.
The winners of the annual award get $250,000 and the inside track on a Nobel Prize. As the Wall Street Journal notes, 79 Lasker winners have gone on to pick up the Nobel, making this one of the most closely watched awards in biomedical research. Interesting factoid: There are 30,000 prizes handed out for science, medicine and technology each year which are worth a grand total of $1 billion.