The Vilcek Foundation is pleased to announce the 2010 winners of its annual prizes for biomedical science and the arts. The Vilcek Prize for Biomedical Science is awarded to prominent Russian-born biochemist Dr. Alexander Varshavsky, whose research has elucidated the process of protein degradation, presenting the potential for cancer treatments with reduced side effects; he is currently the Howard and Glen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology.
The Vilcek Prize for the Arts, this year bestowed in the field of culinary arts, is awarded to celebrated Spanish-born chef and culinary pioneer José Andrés, credited with bringing Spanish culture to the forefront of American cuisine while pushing the boundaries of food as both a sensory experience and vital component of well-being. The prizes consist of $50,000 and a unique award sculpture created by noted designer Stefan Sagmeister to reflect the winners’ personal journeys as immigrants.
The Vilcek Prizes epitomize the mission of the Vilcek Foundation, which was formed by Jan and Marica Vilcek to honor the contributions of foreign-born individuals in the United States. “Immigration is central to the spirit of our country and has played a major role in securing America’s leadership position in the world,” said Dr. Jan T. Vilcek, President of the Foundation. “Our prizewinners are excellent examples of how immigrants continue to fuel innovation and enrich our society.”
The accomplishments of Dr. Varshavsky and Chef Andrés reverberate beyond national and cultural boundaries. Dr. Varshavsky’s research on the ubiquitin system led to the discovery of its fundamentally important biological functions in living cells, demonstrating that the regulated protein degradation underlies major physiological processes. Dr. Varshavsky’s groundbreaking work has wider implications for research on the causes of birth defects, cancer, neurodegenerative syndromes, and immune disorders. Dr. Varshavsky’s prize will be presented by Nobel Laureate Dr. David Baltimore, whose co-discovery, with Howard Temin, of the reverse transcriptase created the essential framework for understanding the nature of viruses such as HIV.
Deemed a “food philosopher” by NPR and dubbed “Mr. Spain” by the culinary vanguard, Chef Andrés’s emphasis on the link between culture and cuisine reflects the Vilcek Foundation’s values of enriching American society through the infusion of immigrant culture and talent. Chef Andrés is the founder of ThinkFoodGroup, which operates groundbreaking restaurants such as Jaleo and minibar by josé andrés in Washington D.C., and The Bazaar in Los Angeles. As the Host and Producer of Made in Spain, the PBS food and travel series, Chef Andrés brought the various regions of his beloved homeland to American culture. Chef Andrés has also championed the role of chefs in the national discussion on hunger and nutrition issues. Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine magazine, will present his award.
The prizewinners were selected by panels of experts after months of research and deliberation. The biomedical jury includes noted scientists from prestigious institutions such as the New York University School of Medicine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and former Vilcek Prize winners such as Joan Massagué, Rudolf Jaenisch and Inder Verma. The culinary arts jury is comprised of prominent culinary experts including Ruth Reichl, former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine; Dan Barber, Executive Chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns; and Susan Ungaro, President of the James Beard Foundation.
The Foundation also recognizes the accomplishments of younger immigrants who have achieved notable success with the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise. Dr. Harmit Malik, originally from India and currently an Associate Member at the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will receive the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for his research on the co-evolution of humans and diseases. The Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in the Arts is awarded to Laos-born pastry-chef Varin Keokitvon; a Chef Instructor for the Seattle-based FareStart, he trains homeless and struggling individuals for careers in the culinary arts. In addition, four finalists from each category will be honored. Dr. Malik and Chef Keokitvon will each receive a cash award of $25,000.
In addition to the two Creative Promise Prize winners, the Foundation is also pleased to recognize the work of four finalists in each category. The finalists for Biomedical Science are Dr. Iannis Aifantis, Dr. Rustem Ismagilov, Dr. Vamsi Mootha, and Dr. Jin Zhang. The finalists for the Culinary Arts are Michael Cheng, Yoshinori Ishii, Nandini Mukherjee, and Boris Portnoy. Together, these finalists represent a wide range of talents and achievements: they have pushed academic boundaries, established their own laboratories and restaurants, and introduced innovative new ways of thinking about cuisine and research. The finalists will each receive a cash award of $5,000.
The Foundation’s fifth annual awards presentation dinner will be held at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City on Wednesday, April 7, 2010.
For the complete list and biographies of winners and finalists, please click here.