Alumnus wins 'America's Nobel' for biomedical research

13 September 2019
Recognising and eliminating invaders before they cause disease

Emeritus Professor Miller has been awarded the most prestigious biomedical research prize in the United States, for discovering key parts of our immune system that 'remember' invaders and protect us from diseases. 

[His research] launched the course of modern immunology
Lasker Foundation
Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller’s research has been credited with launching the course of modern immunology Credit: The Lasker Foundation.

Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller. Credit: The Lasker Foundation. 

Australian scientist Emeritus Professor Jacques Miller AC has been awarded the 2019 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, one of the highest international honours for medical research. 

Professor Miller, who commenced his studies at the University of Sydney and is now at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, shares the $250,000 prize with Professor Max Cooper at Emory University in Atlanta.

Emeritus Professor Miller studied Medicine at the University of Sydney and graduated in 1956. He went on to become a researcher in the University’s Pathology Department. He completed his PhD at the University of London and then joined the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical research in 1966. 

The award celebrates the two immunologists’ discovery and research of two distinct classes of immune cells, B and T cells. B and T cells are key parts of the adaptive immune response. The adaptive immune response can remember foreign organisms or abnormal cells that it has encountered, so it can detect and eliminate these invaders before they cause disease. 

Professor Miller also discovered and identified the thymus gland’s essential role for immune function during his doctorate. 

When announcing the winners, the Lasker Foundation stated that Professor Miller and Professor Cooper’s research “launched the course of modern immunology” and “serves as the building blocks for current immunology research and clinical advances”.  This included vaccine development, organ transplants and understanding and treatment of autoimmune diseases. 

The Lasker Awards is one of the most prestigious biomedical research awards in the United States and is referred to as ‘America’s Nobels’. 

The awards recognise the contributions of leaders who made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of human diseases. 

Other Lasker Award recipients include H. Michael Shepard, Dennis J. Slamon and Axel Ullrich who won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their invention of Herceptin, the first monoclonal antibody that blocks a cancer-causing protein, and for its development as a life-saving therapy for women with breast cancer. 

The Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award was awarded to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for its work in providing sustained access to childhood vaccines around the world.

The Lasker Awards will be presented on 20 September in New York City. 

Related articles