David M. Sabatini, MD, PhD, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Member of the Whitehead Institute and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator known for his landmark discoveries in the area of cell signaling and growth regulation, is the recipient of the 2020 Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science at Northwestern University.
The Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science, which carries a $200,000 stipend, was made possible by a generous gift to Northwestern by the late Erwin Esser Nemmers and the late Frederic Esser Nemmers. One of five Nemmers Prizes awarded by the University, it is given to a physician-scientist whose body of research exhibits outstanding achievement in their discipline as demonstrated by works of lasting significance. A jury of distinguished scientists from around the country made the final selection.
“Learning from Dean Neilson that I am the recipient of the 2020 Nemmers Prize in Medical Science has left me in a state of both joy and humility. I am so happy to have the outstanding work of my trainees recognized as they collectively deserve this prize far more than I do,” Sabatini said. “I am also humbled because the prize that has been previously given to colleagues I consider scientific heroes. My deepest gratitude to the Nemmers family, the prize jury, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.”
In connection with this award, Sabatini will deliver a public lecture and participate in other scholarly activities at Feinberg in the coming year.
“Dr. Sabatini’s remarkable work, in particular his discovery of the mTOR pathway, has provided invaluable insights into linkages between energy, nutrient metabolism, cancer, and aging,” said Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean. “He is an exceptional physician-scientist who has inspired many others, and we are thrilled to honor his scientific accomplishments and contributions to improving human health.”
Sabatini, a prolific investigator who is also a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and senior associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, studies the pathways that regulate growth and metabolism and how they are deregulated in diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Sabatini discovered the mTOR protein as a graduate student, and his subsequent influential studies uncovered many of the components of the pathway and its role in regulating organisms’ growth and opened up vital avenues for further research into potential treatments for a variety of diseases and conditions, including cancer, epilepsy and diabetes. His cell signaling insights elucidated the mechanisms that regulate and coordinate growth with the availability of nutrients, providing essential insights into the connections between energy, metabolism and aging.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and has been awarded the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology and Biomedicine, the Sjöberg Prize, and the NAS Award in Molecular Biology, among other honors. In total, he has authored more than 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Sabatini received his medical and doctorate degrees from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1997, after earning a bachelor of science degree from Brown University in biological sciences. He then was named a fellow of the Whitehead Institute, where he began his own laboratory and was named a Member in 2002 – the same year he joined the faculty of MIT.
About the Nemmers Prizes
The Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science is made possible by a generous gift to Northwestern by the late Erwin Esser Nemmers and the late Frederic Esser Nemmers. The Nemmers Prize in Medical Science is the fourth Nemmers Prize to be established by Northwestern University and joins the Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, the Frederic Esser Nemmers Prize in Mathematics, the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition and the Nemmers Prize in Earth Sciences, established in 2016. The awards are given every other year. Combined, the five Nemmers Prizes winners receive $900,000.
In 2016, the inaugural award was presented to Huda Zoghbi, MD, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor at Baylor College of Medicine, whose research has focused on Rett syndrome and other neurological disorders.
Stuart Orkin, MD, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a professor at Harvard Medical School a pioneering hematologist known for his landmark discoveries into blood cell development and the genetic basis of blood disorders, was awarded the 2018 prize.
Read more about Sabatini and the Mechthild Esser Nemmers Prize in Medical Science at feinberg.northwestern.edu/nemmers.