The prestigious 2015 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize will be awarded to Ruth S. Nussenzweig, MD, PhD, research professor of pathology, professor emerita of microbiology and pathology, and Victor Nussenzweig, MD, PhD, research professor of pathology, professor emeritus of pathology at NYU Langone Medical Center, for scientific achievements they have made that led to the prevention, cure, or treatment of human diseases.
Working for NYU Langone’s malaria research program in the 1960s, Dr. Ruth Nussenzweig was pivotal in overturning the common assumption that malaria parasites were too complex to vaccinate against. In a major breakthrough, she discovered that irradiated sporozoites, the infectious components of the malaria parasite, could make mice immune to malaria.
She and her husband, Dr. Victor Nussenzweig, then uncovered the major target for a malaria vaccine: a protein on the surface of malaria sporozoites called circumsporozoite, or CSP. This protein contains a central large domain with repetitive amino acids that is now included in malaria vaccines. Antibodies against this region of CSP abolish the parasite's infectivity.
“World leaders in the study of tropical and parasitic diseases, and mentors and friends to countless colleagues and students, Drs. Ruth and Victor Nussenzweig embody the passion that NYU School of Medicine scientists bring to their craft and have left an indelible mark on medical research,” said Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, senior vice president and vice dean for science, chief scientific officer of NYU Langone. “Their groundbreaking discoveries over the last three decades paved the way for the development of a human malaria vaccine of proven efficacy that is now undergoing extensive trials in Africa. It is hoped that an effective malaria vaccine will contribute to the eradication of this dreadful disease that kills millions of children every year.”
The Warren Alpert Foundation honors innovative biomedical researchers dedicated to understanding and curing disease through groundbreaking research, scholarship, and service. Since 1987 the Foundation, in partnership with Harvard Medical School, has awarded the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize to many of the world's foremost physician-scientists and researchers. Each fall, Harvard Medical School hosts a scientific symposium in October in honor of the recipients, where the Nussenzweigs will share the $500,000 prize.
Husband and wife research team Ruth S. and Victor Nussenzweig win the 2015 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize for their distinguished contributions to vaccines and infectious disease.
About Dr. Ruth Nussenzweig
A native of Vienna, Austria, Dr. Ruth Nussenzweig has been on faculty at NYU School of Medicine since 1965. During her tenure, she has held key leadership positions including head of the Division of Parasitology in the Department of Microbiology and the first chair of the Department of Medical and Molecular Parasitology, which she held for nearly two decades. Dr. Nussenzweig has the distinction of being the first woman to chair a department at NYU School of Medicine.
She has served as a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the World Health Organization, the Pew Foundation, and the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium, among other groups. The author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, she has also served on the editorial boards of prestigious journals, including Nature and Science. She was elected in 2006 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. In 2008 she was awarded the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal by the Sabin Vaccine Institute in recognition of her many contributions in the field of immunology and commitment to life-saving medical discoveries. She received her MD degree in 1953 and PhD degree in 1968 at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 1964, she and her husband came to the United States.
About Dr. Victor Nussenzweig
A native of Brazil, Dr. Victor Nussenzweig has been a pathology faculty member since 1965. He has led the Michael Heidelberger Division of the Department of Pathology since 1987, converting his initial passion for social rights into a remarkable career in medical research. He has authored over 300 publications in parasitology and in the biochemistry of the complement system.
Over the years, he has received numerous honors, including membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellowship status in the American Academy of Microbiology, and a lifetime achievement award from the European organization BioMalPar for his contributions to the field of malaria research. He obtained his MD degree in 1953 and PhD in 1957 from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Deborah (DJ) Haffeman