Clevers receives the award for his research in to a molecular process named the Wnt pathway. The process plays a crucial role in the development of stem cells and organs. Clevers showed in the nineties that the Wnt pathway plays a key role in stem cells. The downside, however, is that disruption of the process is an important cause of cancer.
Clevers’ research has been a breakthrough in the biomedical sciences. It was his research group that visualized living stem cells for the first time. By culturing living stem cells from the intestinal tract, he developed the first organoids; mini-organs that behave cellular and molecularly identical tot he real organ.
Since then, the organoid technology has developed further. Nowadays, Clevers uses the technology for research into childhood cancer. His research group and colleagues in the Princess Máxima Center culture mini-tumors from patient derived tumor cells in the lab. With the organoids the researchers are able to closely study the characteristics of the tumor and test different potential treatments.
On December 19th, 2019, the Keio Medical Science Prize will be handed out fort he 24th time. Eight of the laureates later received the Nobel prize. In addition to Clevers, the Japanese scientist Prof. dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto receives the award. ‘I am honored to be awarded the Keio Medical Science Prize and also to receive this award together with Prof. dr. Tadamitsu Kishimoto’, responds Clevers.