by Malcolm Curtis|The Local, Switzerland|September 24, 2012
An American-Swiss molecular biologist has won the 2012 Marcel Benoist Prize, regarded as the most prestigious Swiss award for science and humanities research.
Michael N. Hall, a professor at the University of Basel’s Biozentrum, is being honoured with what is commonly known as the “Swiss Nobel Prize” for his ground-breaking studies on cell growth and the development of cancer, Swiss federal authorities said on Monday.
Hall, born in 1953, received his PhD from Harvard and conducted post-doctoral research at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the University of San Francisco.
He joined the University of Basel’s Biozentrum in 1987, where his research has earned him numerous awards.
As a young assistant professor in the 1990s, Hall discovered a protein that controls cell growth and size in simple organisms, such as yeasts.
He later found that this growth regulator, which he named target of rampacyn (TOR), was also present in complex mechanisms, such as mammals and human beings.
The drug rampacyn is a growth inhibitor that is today used in cancer therapies as a result of Hall’s research, the government said in a news release.
More recent discoveries by the scientist and other teams of researchers show that TOR plays an important role in the ageing process and the “dysregulation that occurs in obesity”.
Hall’s findings “are now considered part of basic scientific knowledge in biology”, the government said.
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