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Kivanç Birsoy receives 2020 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise

Kivanç Birsoy portrait

Kivanç Birsoy

Kivanç Birsoy, who studies how metabolic pathways regulate biological processes and contribute to diseases including cancer, has been awarded The Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise Prize in Biomedical Science. This honor is presented annually to encourage and support emerging to mid-career immigrant scientists who have demonstrated exceptional achievements early in their careers.

Birsoy, who was born in Izmir, Turkey, is Rockefeller’s Chapman Perelman Assistant Professor and head of the Laboratory of Metabolic Regulation and Genetics. His work aims to understand which metabolic pathways or which nutrients are used by particular cancer types, and to develop novel ways to target these pathways and use them for therapeutic purposes.

Because cancer cells are uniquely resourceful in their ability to usurp resources and proliferate, Birsoy has fashioned biomedical tools, including CRISPR, to probe their complex metabolism. His studies have provided new insights into how cancer cells respond to the nutrient- and oxygen-deprived environments of tumors, and he has identified unexpected dependencies that they have that are required for cancer cell proliferation. Recently, he has found evidence that the synthesis of aspartate is critical to the growth of some tumors and that a form of lymphoma depends upon uptake of LDL cholesterol from the blood plasma for survival.

The Vilcek Foundation, established in 2000 by Czechoslovakian immigrants, honors immigrant contributions to the United States, and more broadly, fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences. Winners of the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise are selected through an application process juried by panels of experts in each field. Birsoy will be honored alongside five other awardees at a ceremony in New York City in April, 2020.