The Lasker Award: Celebrating our accomplishments as a field..

Right now as the payline at NIAID is the 10th percentile… us microbiologists don’t have a lot to celebrate.  Every single paper and grant submission is a hard slog, multiple re-submissions, and no light at the end of the tunnel.  It is truly a test of perseverance that we, as a community, have not seen in years- and it is wearing down many a fine microbiologist. Morale is low…. in some cases very, very low.

This morning we got something to celebrate- with the announcement that Stanley Falkow is the winner of one of the Lasker-Koshland Awards for this year.  You should read about the remarkable accomplishments of this man, and members of his laboratory, in microbiology, including the discovery of plasmids, the mechanism of transposition, mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, and many, many seminal advances in the study of pathogenic microbes. A wonderful tribute written by one of his former trainee’s will appear in the next issue of Cell (which I will link to when it becomes publicly available).

Speaking of his trainees though- at the last meeting I attended … you know-three initials .. held in non-air conditioned New Hampshire Boarding School where there is no cell phone reception… I was struck by the number of really excellent scientists in that room that were trained in his laboratory, or were trained by former members of his laboratory.  The number of scientific ‘children’ and ‘grandchildren’ who are working to move the field forward is really quite amazing. So many times this business is adversarial, with ugly politics, excessive competitiveness, and we have very little good to say about each other- that makes it all the more important that at moments like this we step back and celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of this excellent microbiologist- as the community that we are.

So- a toast to you Stanley-  I am one of your scientific ‘grandchildren’ and although we have never met in person  – your insights into microbiology, pathogenic microbiology, infectious diseases, and teaching & mentoring have informed my career and my thinking about pathogenic microbiology in ways too numerous to count…(and I often quote you to my students… ‘It may be shit to you… but it’s my bread and butter!!’)



6 thoughts on “The Lasker Award: Celebrating our accomplishments as a field..

  1. Right now as the payline at NIAID is the 10th percentile… us microbiologists don’t have a lot to celebrate.

    It is worth pointing out that 10.0 is an interim payline until a 2009 fiscal year budget is appropriated. Interim paylines are always set at a very conservative level just in case the appropriated budget is slashed from the year before. Thus, it is highly likely that the final payline will be more generous than 10.0. And the final payline will be applied retroactively to grants not funded under the interim payline, but within the final payline.

  2. PP-

    Last year 28 new and competing renewals were awarded in the study section relevant to me- this is AFTER the adjustment from the interim payline- so lets just say there were 23 funded at the interim level and then we added 5 (across all three cycles) when the line was adjusted. These were 13 competing awards (8/13 were A1 or more) and 15 new awards (14/15 were A1 or more). For 2006 the #s are roughly the same… to a little bit worse.

    Yes, 20% is better than nothing- sure…. but the ##s are still depressing.

    Not sneering, … just sayin…

  3. Great post, and it sounds as if this recognition was long overdue!

    We managed to get a grant from a (non-NIH) US government source last year that had a 6th percentile payline…

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