Arthur L. Horwich, MD, and colleague F. Ulrich Hartl, MD, from the Max Planck Institute, will share a $3 million Breakthrough Prize, the richest prize in the sciences.
Horwich, Sterling Professor of Genetics at Yale School of Medicine and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Hartl, director of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, are honored for their work describing the molecular machinery that folds proteins into proper shapes within cells.
Proteins must be folded into proper three-dimensional structure to carry out their functions, which are crucial to all life. The scientists have shown this folding inside cells does not occur spontaneously, as previously believed, but depends upon molecular “assistants” called chaperones. The misfolding of proteins has been implicated in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Horwich and Hartl have won numerous awards for describing the molecular basis of protein folding, including the prestigious Albert Lasker Basic Research Award.
The Breakthrough Prize annually recognizes achievements in the life sciences, fundamental physics, and mathematics, disciplines that “ask the biggest questions and seek the deepest explanations.”