An American-Swiss Researcher Receives the Annual Award Called Debrecen-díj

2016, November 30 - 11:03
This year’s “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” has been granted to Michael N. Hall, a leading researcher of the development and treatment of diseases related to human tumors, metabolism, and immunology.

“Among the academic prizes awarded by the University of Debrecen, this is the most prestigious one,” said László Csernoch at the press conference held before the awarding ceremony.

The Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs of our institution dubbed this distinction very special. In his laudation, he underlined the fact that the present laureate belonged to a circle of scientists in the field of molecular medicine all the international representatives of which would be holders of impressive records of achievement. Another unique feature he noted about the international award is that it is normally granted for efforts and exploits in medical research that are appealing and exciting also for ordinary people.

This year marked the fourteenth time that “Debrecen Award for Molecular Medicine” was presented to a nominee whom the professors at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Debrecen aim to recognize for extraordinary achievements in the field of life sciences leading to remarkable progress in our understanding and more efficient treatments of diseases.

“We nominate and vote about researchers who we also consider eligible for receiving the Nobel Prize. We are proud that, among our previous awardees, there has already been one recipient who was later awarded the Nobel prize, too. We would like to hope that this coincidence will also occur in the future,” said László Mátyus, Dean of the Faculty of General Medicine at the University of Debrecen.

The awardee said he regarded the decision a major honor and added that the most apparent recognition for any academic is obviously one that comes from his distinguished colleagues if they say that his achievement is internationally outstanding.

Michael N. Hall is an American and Swiss molecular biologist and Professor at the Biozentrum University of Basel, Switzerland. At the beginning of the 1990s, while examining the effects of the strong immunosuppressive rapamycin, he discovered a protein which regulates cell growth, cell size and cell division in yeast cells. Later, he was able to demonstrate the same control mechanism in mammals and also in human cells.

The focus of his investigations ever since has been the exploration of the biological functions of the so-called TOR (Target of Rapamycine) protein. He has also discovered that TOR is a conserved protein kinase activated by growth factors, nutrients, and insulin, as a central controller of cell growth and metabolism. The outstanding significance of his work is highlighted by the close relationship between his discoveries and the development and the application of new therapeutic strategies to diseases related to human tumors, metabolism, and immunology.

László Virág, Vice Dean for Scientific Affairs at the Faculty of General Medicine, pointed out in his address that, in contemporary medical research in the field of life sciences, it is very frequent that discoveries are made by not just one but several research groups or leading researchers through their joint efforts. Nevertheless, the case of Professor Hall and his colleagues is unique in the sense that all their experimental research findings have been made clearly and exclusively by themselves only.

Since there was a sizeable turnout at the awarding ceremony, displaying keen interest in the discoveries of the professor, who is a member of both the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences USA, he also gave a presentation to the crowd about his research findings.

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