The Lasker Foundation announced that they are bestowing this most prestigious American research award to Immunologist Max Cooper and researcher, Professor Jacques Miller from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, for their biomedical research identifying and defining the function of B and T cells, a monumental achievement that uncovered the organizing principle of the adaptive immune system and launched the course of modern immunology.
Miller showed that the thymus, previously thought to be a vestigial organ, is essential for immune function. Cooper then demonstrated that there are two distinct cell lineages in the adaptive immune system: B cells and T cells. “Working separately, both Max Cooper’s and my laboratory simultaneously identified T cells, which are produced in the thymus, and B cells, which mature in the bone marrow. We then showed that these two cell types play different, but equally important roles: T cells stimulate B cells to produce antibodies which can protect against infection,” Professor Miller said.
“Max Cooper’s pioneering research and ongoing work have influenced countless other discoveries in science and medicine and have impacted decades of incredible progress in preventing and treating disease.” says Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, Emory executive vice president for health affairs and executive director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. “We are extremely fortunate to have him as a member of our Emory University and Vaccine Center faculty.”
His landmark discoveries provided a framework for understanding how white blood cells normally combat infection — and how they can undergo abnormal development to cause immune deficiencies, leukemia, lymphomas and autoimmune diseases. Cooper’s work also contributed to the medical knowledge that enabled transplants of bone marrow stem cells to treat blood cell cancers.
Established in 1942 by Albert and Mary Lasker, the Lasker Foundation is committed to inspiring robust and sustained support for biomedical research. Recipients of the Lasker Medical Research Awards are selected by a distinguished international jury.