Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
For pioneering research on the Wnt pathway, one of the crucial intercellular signaling systems in development, cancer and stem cell biology.
It is a great honor to receive the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Over the years, many people have helped to make this possible. I want to acknowledge in particular two mentors: Piet Borst and Harold Varmus. After inspiring me with their high standards in science, both have become life-long friends. My gratitude also goes to my family, my wife Betsy and my sons, Ysbrand, James and Ben, for their love and support. Over the years, numerous students and postdocs have passed through my research group, contributing in an essential way to the Wnt story. Throughout my career, at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and at Stanford, I had the freedom to focus my research on whatever experimental subjects I chose - from fruitflies to mammalian stem cells - with essential support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Reflecting on the past: as an undergraduate many years ago, I started to work on cancer. At the time, there was almost nothing known about the origin of this disease. But now, 40 years later, we have a good basic understanding of cancer and even therapies based on those insights. It has been a privilege to participate in these breakthroughs.