The Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics
Laureates of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Biophysics
Research Field: Physical Principles in Biological Systems
Citation: Decisive contributions to the understanding of the structure and dynamics of cells and their interactions with their physical environment
Samuel (Sam) Safran has played a pivotal role in the application of the statistical mechanics and dynamics of soft matter to cellular activity and function. He combines methodologies and insights from soft-matter physics with knowledge of biological macromolecules and membranes to develop analytical, predictive theories of complex biological phenomena. These include, in particular, the development of cell mechano-biology – how cells interact with their environment and with other cells using active mechanics.
Citation: Pioneering the development of single-molecule methods for probing fundamental biological processes at the nanometer scale.
Prof. Shimon Weiss has pioneered the development of single-molecule biophysical methods that have profoundly affected the understanding of biological processes at the molecular scale. Among his main contributions are the development of single-molecule Forster-resonance-energy-transfer (smFRET) for in situ determination of molecular distances between different parts of nucleic acids and proteins; the invention of fluorescent quantum dots for probing biological processes in living system; and the development of one of the most subtle and powerful approaches to super-resolution optical microscopy, based on the inherent fluctuations of fluorescent probes. The methods developed by Prof. Weiss have now become standard techniques in many labs worldwide and have led to fundamental discoveries in biology.
Prof. Robert B. Best, Computational Biophysics Section, Laboratory of Chemical Physics NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, USA
Citation: Seminal contributions to the understanding of protein structure and dynamics
Robert Best has reached several key discoveries concerning protein folding and association, using mainly atomistic Molecular Dynamics simulations. These include the relation between transient misfolded intermediates and protein aggregation, the crucial role of native contacts in folding mechanisms, and the structure and association of intrinsically disordered proteins. In addition, he introduced critical improvements to the force fields used in such atomistic simulations, from which innumerable other studies have benefited.
Citation: Elucidating the biophysical principles underlying the forces that shape cells and tissues
Margaret Gardel’s most significant achievements have centered around establishing the biophysical underpinnings of cell adhesion, contractility, migration and matrix stiffness sensing. In particular, she has been a leader in developing new understanding of how the physical properties of the cell emerge from the mechanics of the actin cytoskeleton. She has also developed novel experimental tools for studying and measuring forces in cells and in in-vitro reconstituted systems.