The National Academy of Sciences will honor 16 individuals with awards recognizing their extraordinary scientific achievements in a wide range of fields spanning the physical, biological, social, and medical sciences. These include 2 members of the National Academy of Medicine: Kevan M. Shokat and Michelle Monje.

Kevan M. Shokat, University of California, San Francisco, will receive the 2023 NAS Award for Scientific Discovery.

Shokat is a pioneer of modern chemical biology, using innovative approaches to develop powerful molecular tools to advance basic knowledge and combat devastating diseases.

Shokat, a professor at both the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Berkeley, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, has established an innovative and productive interdisciplinary research program that has produced an array of powerful chemical methods for studying cell biology. Early in his career, Shokat developed orthogonal kinase-substrate pairs, powerfully demonstrating how useful chemogenetic tools could be in dissecting complex signaling pathways in vivo.

Shokat’s recent discovery of inhibitors targeted to the commonly mutated cancer oncogene, K-Ras, has led to the discovery of the first drugs against a target previously considered undruggable. This breakthrough has led to a revolutionary new approach to cancer treatment that is already having a major medical impact.

Michelle Monje, Stanford University School of Medicine, will receive the 2023 Richard Lounsbery Award.

Monje’s pioneering work has fundamentally changed our view about the communication between neurons and glial cells in normal brain function and in neurological disorders, particularly brain cancers.

Monje and her team investigate the role of neuronal activity over the control of both physiological and pathological processes of brain development, maturation, and oncogenesis, with particular focus on both the origins of pediatric brain tumors and the consequences of cancer treatment. Her groundbreaking findings showed that neuronal activity promotes adaptive myelination important for cognition and that neuronal activity drives malignant glioma progression through neuron-to-glioma synapses and paracrine factors.

As both a physician and researcher, Monje plays an active role in bringing her findings into clinical settings. In collaboration with other labs, she identified a molecule on the surface of gliomas to target with CAR T-cell therapy, resulting in the virtual elimination of the tumors in mice. She is currently leading clinical trials for these and other treatment methods.

The winners will be honored in a ceremony during the National Academy of Sciences’ 160th annual meeting.

Read the full press release here >>

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