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.