Angelika Amon, Winner Of The 2019 Breakthrough Prize In Life Sciences, Passes Away

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Angelika Amon who died on October 29 after battling cancer – a disease which she had done outstanding work attempting to understand. She was 53.

Amon was the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor in Cancer Research at MIT and was admired and beloved by her students and colleagues worldwide. She leaves behind her husband Johannes Weis and daughters Theresa and Clara. She was also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Amon won the 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for “determining the consequences of aneuploidy, an abnormal chromosome number resulting from chromosome mis-segregation.”

When a cell divides into two, its chromosomes are copied and split equally between the two new cells. But this process can go wrong, causing “aneuploidy” – cells with the wrong number of chromosomes. In humans, aneuploidy is strongly correlated with the development of cancer, but the causative mechanism has been elusive. Professor Amon showed that a primary mechanism is the raising of stress levels in the cell; that this tends to lead, unexpectedly, to slower proliferation of cancer; but that ultimately aneuploidy can help the cancer to spread through the body, because genes in its extra chromosomes equip it to flourish in these new areas.

In accepting the Breakthrough Prize, Amon said, “Making a discovery is the best feeling in the world. It’s like Christmas when you were five. The beauty of experimental science is that these eureka moments are often shared with other scientists, and I’m privileged to have experienced this."

Her Breakthrough Prize symposium talk on her vision for future research can be viewed here.