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The Watanabe Prize in Translational Research recognizes individuals focused on shepherding scientific discoveries into new therapies for patients.

August M. Watanabe Prize in Translational Research

Awarded by Indiana University School of Medicine

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The August M. Watanabe Prize

Indiana University School of Medicine is pleased to award the August M. Watanabe prize in translational research. The prize is one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious awards, recognizing individuals focused on shepherding scientific discoveries into new therapies for patients. The prize is awarded to a senior investigator who has made a significant contribution to the field of translational science. The winner receives $100,000 and travels to Indianapolis as a visiting dignitary, sharing insights and knowledge with audiences at IU School of Medicine and its partner institutions.

Craig B. Thompson portrait

2024 winner of the Watanabe Prize in Translational Research 

Craig B. Thompson, MD, has been named the 2024 winner of the August M. Watanabe Prize in Translational Research and will be honored at the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) Annual Meeting in September 2024. Thompson is the former president and chief executive officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from 2010 to 2022. He continues to oversee the Craig Thompson Lab at Sloan Kettering, where his research focuses on cellular metabolism and its role in disease and cancer. He is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

Some of the Thompson lab’s most notable scientific achievements include: 

  • A long-standing collaboration with Carl H. June, MD, on how T lymphocytes are activated and gain effector function. These studies were the foundation upon which June’s team then developed CAR-T immunotherapy, which has fundamentally changed the way several blood cancers are treated.  
  • Being one of the first to characterize the first immune checkpoint CTLA4, which has led to revolutionary immunotherapy for the treatment of many cancers.  
  • Defining how cells regulated programmed cell death. In collaboration with Stanley J. Korsmeyer, MD, Thompson’s work was seminal in delineating the molecular mechanisms regulating cell death. This is an understanding that is now integral to almost every field of medicine, and Thompson has been centrally involved in translating these discoveries clinically into cancer therapeutics. 
  • Establishing the pattern of reprogramed metabolism as a hallmark of cancer, which has led to new clinical approaches in both the treatment and diagnosis of cancer.

Past Recipients


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Huda Y. Zoghbi, MD

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Adrian Krainer, PhD

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Nancy Brown Headshot

Nancy J. Brown, MD

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Brian Druker, MD

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David Holtzman, MD

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Jean Bennett, MD, PhD

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Robert J. Lefkowitz, MD

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Carl H. June, MD

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Tadataka Yamada, MD

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The Watanabe Legacy

The Watanabe prize is named in honor of the late August Watanabe, a titan in the field of translational research in both academia and industry who impacted the health of people around the world as a leader at Indiana University School of Medicine and Eli Lilly and Company.

Dr. Watanabe began his career at IU in 1972 and served as chair of the Department of Medicine from 1983 to 1990. From there, he joined Eli Lilly and Company, where he was ultimately named executive vice president, overseeing the launch of 11 drugs and doubling the size of Lilly’s research and development staff.

The Watanabe Prize in Translational Research was established to honor Dr. Watanabe’s unparalleled dedication to scientific inquiry and his tireless advocacy of translational research.

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The design of the Watanabe crest is based on the ancient Japanese Wataribe clan, from which the name Watanabe is derived. The crest symbolizes a ferry, as the Wataribe clan ran ferry services throughout Japan. Fittingly, Dr. Watanabe helped “ferry” discoveries through the scientific pipeline, delivering them to patients in the form of the new treatments and, ultimately, hope for a healthier tomorrow.