Established by Bengt Sjöberg 2016
The first Sjöberg Prize, totalling 1 million US dollars, is awarded for discoveries that have led to new and effective cancer treatments
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Sjöberg Prize 2017 to
James P. Allison, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA and
Tony Hunter, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA, USA
“for groundbreaking studies of cellular processes that have led to the development of new and effective cancer drugs”
The Sjöberg Prize is an annual international prize in cancer research that is now being awarded for the first time. The prize is financed by the Sjöberg Foundation, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for selecting the Laureates. The foundation was founded in 2016 by the late businessman Bengt Sjöberg, who donated 2 billion Swedish krona, one of the biggest donations in Swedish history.
“We are delighted that we can encourage future cancer research by awarding this prize to two such outstanding researchers. Their discoveries have led to improved cancer treatment for thousands of people and we are proud to be awarding them the first Sjöberg Prize. Their high-quality research represents the Sjöberg Foundation’s idea and purpose of inspiring and aiding new efforts in the work to fight cancer,” says the donor’s brother, Ingemar Sjöberg, Chairman of the Sjöberg Foundation.
The prize totals 1 million US dollars and is shared equally between the Laureates. It is divided into a personal award of 100,000 US dollars and a grant for future research of 900,000 US dollars.
This year, the research being rewarded has opened up two entirely new ways of treating cancer.
James Allison investigated how the white blood cells known as T cells are activated, and how a specific “brake” signal could be prevented. He realised that when this brake is removed, the immune system can use its full potential to attack tumour cells. These discoveries have resulted in the cancer pharmaceuticals that are called immune checkpoint inhibitors and which are of decisive significance in treating melanoma. They are also used in treating other forms of cancer and numerous clinical trials are underway.
“I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of the first Sjöberg Prize, and feel that it acknowledges the effort of all those who worked to translate fundamental understanding of immunological processes into treatment strategies that are saving the lives of many cancer patients,” says James Allison.
James P. Allison was born in 1948 in Alice, Texas, USA. He is professor and Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.
Tony Hunter studied how normal cells become tumour cells, demonstrating that a special process was necessary: tyrosine phosphorylation. His discovery led to the development of a new type of cancer pharmaceutical, tyrosine kinase inhibitors. These have revolutionised the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia (KML) and are of also great benefit in other forms of cancer.
“I am deeply honoured to have been recognized by the inaugural Sjöberg Prize. It is very gratifying that our work on a simple chicken tumour virus has ultimately led to new and effective therapies for human cancer, with 26 tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs currently approved for clinical use,” says Tony Hunter.
Tony Hunter was born in 1943 in Ashford, Kent in the United Kingdom. He is an American Cancer Society Professor and Renato Dulbecco Chair, and Deputy Director of the Salk Institute Cancer Center at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, USA.
The award ceremony will be during the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Annual Meeting on 31 March 2017 in the presence of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen of Sweden. The laureates will hold open lectures at Karolinska Institutet on 30 March.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was founded in 1739 and is an independent organisation that aims to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society. The Academy takes special responsibility for the natural sciences and mathematics, but strives to increase the exchange between different disciplines.
Bengt Westermark, Chairman of the prize committee
Professor of Tumor Biology
+46 70 818 18 44
Rune Toftgård, Secretary of the prize committee
Professor of Environmental Toxicology
+46 8 673 95 60
The Sjöberg Foundation
Ingemar Sjöberg, Chairman of the Sjöberg Foundation
+46 70 799 14 79
Fredrik All, Head of Communications, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
+46 70 673 95 63
Bengt Sjöberg donates SEK 2 billion to cancer research
Bengt Sjöberg, resident in Hong Kong but originally from Lysekil, Sweden, has founded the Sjöberg Foundation, to which he has donated SEK 2 billion. His hope is that this donation will make a difference to cancer research and the treatment currently received by cancer patients.
“I have intended to start some form of foundation for a number of years, giving back to society through the capital I have amassed over my life.My idea is that the foundation should primarily focus on cancer research but, if the riddle of cancer is solved in the future, I would like the foundation to be able to contribute to other medical research and also to environmental research.I want the research to which I contribute to be as clinically focused as possible, so it can be applied rapidly. My hope is that the foundation will contribute to a new view of cancer treatment, in which there is equal openness to evaluating both conventional and unconventional treatment methods, as well as a combination of them both.”
Bengt Sjöberg is 66 and received a diagnosis of lung cancer at the start of the year; he particularly hopes that the foundation’s money will improve lung cancer care and the treatment opportunities currently available in Sweden.
“The current survival figures for Swedish lung cancer care are depressing, and if I can be part of helping people to enjoy better quality of life and longer lives, it is worth every krona.”
The foundation will award an annual Sjöberg Prize to a prominent cancer researcher or cancer research group. The prize will be awarded in close cooperation with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the value of the prize will be equivalent to USD 1 million, of which the majority is designated for further research. In addition to the Sjöberg Prize, the foundation hopes to allocate SEK 60–70 million every year; discussions are currently underway with Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm regarding a new cancer centre. Bengt Sjöberg hopes that the foundation’s money can start to be put to use in 2016.
“I am a businessman and have spent my life building companies, but this is the most rewarding thing I have done and I would like to see the results as soon as possible.”
The first chair of the foundation’s board is Bengt Sjöberg. Ingemar Sjöberg, Bengt Sjöberg’s brother, has been appointed vice-chair and the secretary is Ola Johannesson. Other board members are Bengt Sjöberg’s two children, Michelle Sjöberg and Joachim Sjöberg, as well as Göran K. Hansson and Annika Espander.
The foundation will be registered in Lysekil Municipality.
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