Stanford stem cell pioneer Irving Weissman wins international honors



IRVING WEISSMAN, a professor of pathology and of developmental biology at Stanford Medical School, was recently awarded the Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Prize for Cancer Research in Zurich.

Weissman, who directs the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, was honored for his role in identifying and isolating the first hematopoetic, or blood-forming, stem cell in mice in 1988, and then in humans in 1992. In 2000, he also isolated leukemia cancer stem cells from humans. Recently, he and his colleagues have devoted themselves to understanding how cancer cells escape destruction by the immune system by expressing a “don’t eat me” signal on their cell membranes.

“His discoveries on aging processes in stem-cell systems and ultimately his contribution toward understanding cancer stem cells and the way in which the immune system can control these cells are pioneering achievements with far-reaching clinical implications,” Markus Manz, director of the Department of Hematology at the University Hospital Zurich, said of Weissman at a symposium titled “Breakthroughs in Cancer Research and Therapy” where the prize was announced.

Weissman also is the director of Stanford’s Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research and Medicine and holds the Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Professorship in Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research.

The prize, presented by the Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Foundation, included 100,000 Swiss francs, or about $108,000.

The Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Foundation was founded in 1991 by Brupbacher’s wife, Frederique, in honor of her late husband. This is the 12th time the prize, which is meant to recognize internationally acknowledged achievements in fundamental cancer research, has been awarded. Brupbacher was a Swiss banker, economist and international currency expert.

In addition to the Brupbacher Prize, it was recently announced that Weissman will receive the McEwen Award for Innovation, supported by the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto. The award will be presented in June at the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Stockholm. It recognizes the work of Weissman and Hans Clevers, of the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, in the identification, purification and characterization of adult stem cells from a variety of human tissues and cancers. Weissman and Clevers will share a $100,000 award.

Read the full announcement on the Stanford Medicine website.