Lasker to Nobel: Clinical versus Basic

Oct 07 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

In response to my recent post regarding Nobel Prizes, a commenter suggested that comparing the number of winners of the Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research who had gone on to receive a Nobel Prize with the number of winners of the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research who had done so would be one way to quantity any bias toward basic science in the Nobel Prizes. This seemed like a reasonable suggestion so I tallied the numbers for these categories.

Since 1960, 100 individuals have won or shared the Lasker Award in Clinical Medical Research. Of these 6 have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes (including Youyou Tu this year). 121 individual have won or shared the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research over the same period. Of these 58 have gone on to win a Nobel! Needless to say, this is statistically significant with p < .00000000001.

This clearly reflects a bias favoring basic research although there are some additional factors affecting these numbers such as that approximately a third of the Lasker Basic Medical Research awardees have gone on to win Nobels in Chemistry rather than Physiology or Medicine. There may be more tomorrow morning.

3 responses so far

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    I'm curious whether for Nobels that went to >1 individuals, the awarded "team" comprised basic+clinical researchers. This seems possible considering that landmark clinical discoveries would often be founded on basic research. Is it therefore possible that for every clinical Nobel laureate, there are one or two basic Nobel laureates that get roped in? In such a case, assuming there's some bias toward basic research, it is natural that this bias would get further amplified albeit not as stark a difference as your analysis shows. Nevertheless, I think it would account for a decent portion of the variation. Can this be further parsed in your analysis?

  • […] a recent post, I analyzed more than 50 years of Lasker Award winners with regard to the likelihood that a winner […]

  • Spiny Norman says:

    It absolutely astonishes me that pulse oximetry has garnered neither a Nobel nor a Lasker.

    General anesthesia deaths have gone from 1 in 2,000-7,000 in the 1960s and 1970s, to 1 in 50,000-200,000 today, as a direct consequence of pulse oximetry. And that figure doesn't even include the utility of oximetry in non-surgical settings!

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