Two scientists whose cardiovascular research has been credited with saving thousands of lives were honored on Wednesday (May 8) with the 14th annual Warren Alpert Foundation Scientific Prize at a ceremony at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.
Eugene Braunwald, the Hersey Distinguished Professor of Theory and Practice of Physic at Harvard Medical School, and Barry S. Coller, the David Rockefeller Professor of Medicine at the Rockefeller University, were recognized for their work in dramatically improving survival and quality of life for those suffering myocardial infarction. The two scientists will share the $100,000 prize.
Braunwald, who is also the chief academic officer of Partners Healthcare System, made the seminal discovery that a heart attack is a progressive event and that much of the heart muscle placed in jeopardy by the event can be rescued. This fundamental discovery changed the entire paradigm for the treatment of patients with acute myocardial infarction. Braunwald went on to conceive or play integral roles in numerous trials of methods to reduce heart muscle damage after myocardial infarction. According to the Institute of Scientific Research, Braunwald is the most prominently cited biomedical researcher in the world over the last four decades.
“The dramatic declines over the past several decades in the mortality and morbidity due to acute myocardial infarction can, in many ways, be attributed to Dr. Braunwald’s discoveries,” said Dennis Kasper, executive dean for academic programs at Harvard Medical School.
Coller developed one of the most widely used and effective therapeutic agents in modern cardiology. Following his pioneering work in the study of normal platelet function, he isolated a monoclonal antibody that was a highly potent and a more selective inhibitor of platelet aggregation (a cause of infarction) than aspirin. That antibody, abciximab, commonly referred to as Reopro, is now used extensively in angioplasty procedures making them safer for reducing infarct size during heart attack, and reducing the incidence of infarction consequent to the procedure when done to prevent heart attacks.
Each year the foundation receives 30 to 50 award nominations for the Alpert Prize. Prize recipients are selected by the foundation’s scientific advisory board, comprised of internationally renowned biomedical scientists and chaired by Joseph B. Martin, dean of the faculty of medicine.