WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pioneering heart surgeons Alain Carpentier and Albert Starr and immunologist Ralph Steinman were named on Saturday as recipients of Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards, sometimes dubbed “America’s Nobels.”
Carpentier, who is French, and Starr, an American, will receive the award for clinical medical research in recognition of their advances in heart valve surgery.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an expert on the immune system who has helped lead the fight against AIDS, will receive a Lasker public service award.
Starr, 81, co-invented and implanted the world’s first successful artificial heart valve in 1960 and has contributed to innovations related to congenital heart defects, coronary artery bypass surgery and heart transplant surgery. He works for Providence Health & Services in Portland, Oregon.
Carpentier, 74, also is a foremost figure in the field of heart valve replacement. He works for Hopital Europeen Georges Pompidou in Paris.
“Fifty years ago, heart-valve replacement surgery did not exist. Today, it is the second-most common cardiac surgery in the United States and one of the most successful,” cholesterol researcher Joseph Goldstein, who headed the panel that chose the recipients, said in a statement.
“The invention of mechanical and tissue-based valves by Albert Starr and Alain Carpentier benefits several hundred thousand people each year who otherwise would suffer from heart failure or premature death,” Goldstein added.
Steinman, 64, will receive the award for basic medical research. He discovered a class of immune cells called dendritic cells that direct other components of the immune system -- the body’s natural defenses -- to thwart microbial invaders. Born in Canada, he is now an American citizen.
Steinman works at Rockefeller University in New York.
Fauci, 66, will get the Lasker public service award, in part for his role in encouraging the creation of the current multibillion-dollar U.S. effort to combat AIDS globally.
The awards, given for the past 62 years and considered among the most prestigious honors for medical researchers, were created by philanthropists Albert and Mary Woodard Lasker. They are scheduled to be presented on September 28 in New York.
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