Wang, 43, will receive the international award from the Hong Kong-based Shaw Prize Foundation "for his discovery of the biochemical basis of programmed cell death, a vital process that balances cell birth and defends against cancer," according to the award citation.
"I was very surprised and happy to learn I had won the Shaw Prize," Wang said. "UT Southwestern has everything to do with winning this award. The research environment here, my mentors and especially my outstanding postdoctoral students — they have as much to do with winning this honor as I do."
Wang's research centers on the biochemistry of cell death, a phenomenon in which cells activate a self-destruction program. As the body generates new cells, older cells undergo programmed cell suicide. In the case of cancer cells, they are unable to carry out the self-destruct program, so they grow uncontrollably. Wang has discovered several proteins that play a key role in apoptosis, including cytochrome c. This protein was long known as an essential component for generating energy in the cell and maintaining life, but Dr. Wang showed that it also is active in triggering apoptosis.
His continuing research could lead not only to treatments for cancer but also to therapies targeting the abnormal cells in neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Originally from China, Dr. Wang received his undergraduate degree from Beijing Normal University before moving to the United States to pursue graduate studies at UT Southwestern, where he earned a doctorate in biochemistry in 1991. His postdoctoral research at UT Southwestern was with Dr. Brown and fellow Nobel laureate Dr. Joseph Goldstein, chairman of molecular genetics.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Texas Southwestern