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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Renowned French-Canadian scientist Michel Sadelain has been honored with the Breakthrough Prize, often dubbed the “Oscars of Science,” for his groundbreaking research in genetically modifying immune cells to combat cancer.

The prestigious accolade was bestowed upon him during an illustrious ceremony held in Los Angeles, attended by prominent figures in the tech industry such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, along with a host of celebrities including Jessica Chastain, Robert Downey Jr., and Bradley Cooper. Sadelain’s pioneering work has paved the way for the development of CAR-T therapy, which has demonstrated remarkable efficacy against certain types of blood cancers.

Speaking on the significance of the award, Sadelain expressed his gratitude, emphasizing the exceptional recognition bestowed upon him. He recounted the skepticism he faced from scientific peers regarding the feasibility of his research, underscoring the transformative impact of his discoveries. Established in 2010, the Breakthrough Prize aims to honor the brightest minds across various disciplines, including life sciences, fundamental physics, and mathematics, positioning itself as a Silicon Valley-backed counterpart to the prestigious Nobel Prizes.

Alongside Sadelain, American immunologist Carl June shares the honor and will equally divide the $3 million prize money. Sadelain’s journey from studying medicine in Paris to conducting groundbreaking research in immunology in Canada before pursuing postdoctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology underscores his relentless pursuit of scientific innovation.

Sadelain’s pioneering work involves the development of CAR-T cells, which are genetically engineered to recognize and target cancer cells with unprecedented precision. These “living drugs,” as they are often referred to, have exhibited remarkable success in treating lymphoma, certain forms of leukemia, and myeloma. Despite the significant strides made in cancer therapy, one of the primary challenges remains the affordability of treatment, with costs exceeding $500,000 per patient, typically covered by insurance.

The ceremony also recognized the contributions of approximately 20 other scientists across various fields. Noteworthy achievements include the development of effective drugs to address the underlying causes of cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disorder, and the identification of the most prevalent genetic factors contributing to Parkinson’s disease. Sadelain remains committed to advancing his research endeavors with the hope of extending the benefits of CAR-T therapy to a broader spectrum of cancers, underscoring the transformative potential of scientific innovation in the fight against cancer.

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