NOMIS announces recipients of 2020 Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award

April 14, 2020

The NOMIS Foundation is delighted to announce two new recipients of the fifth annual NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award — congratulations to Ronald M. Evans of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Anthony Hyman of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.

In recognition of their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and human progress through their pioneering, innovative and collaborative research, the 2020 NOMIS Award is enabling the scientists to continue this noble endeavor in their respective fields. Evans is working to decode genomic cooperativity in the brain, endocrine glands, gut, liver, immune cells and the microbiome, and hopes to shed light on organ communication by exploring the use of exercise mimetics to prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Hyman is investigating the physical-chemical basis by which intrinsically disordered proteins phase separate and, using this knowledge, is exploring the roles of phase separation in physiology and disease.

NOMIS Awards are presented to pioneering scientists and scholars who, through their innovative, groundbreaking research, have made a significant contribution to their respective fields. Their bold ideas and unique approaches involve interdisciplinary collaboration and apply a broad range of methods, building bridges across the boundaries of disciplines. The award will be presented to the recipients at a ceremony in Switzerland in October 2020.

The 2020 awardees

Ronald M. Evans (photo: Salk Institute)

Ronald M. Evans is professor and director of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory as well as holder of the March of Dimes Chair in Molecular and Developmental Biology in La Jolla, US. He is known for revolutionizing the fields of endocrinology and metabolism and producing novel classes of drugs that act on genes. Evans discovered a “superfamily” of 48 genes, called nuclear hormone receptors (NRs), that respond to steroid and thyroid hormones, vitamins A and D, as well as to dietary fats and bile acids. This led to a unifying theory of hormone action in which gene networks throughout the body control physiologic pathways from embryonic development to adulthood. Evans identified novel NRs involved in neurogenesis, inflammation, cancer and diabetes.

Evans also identified exercise mimetics, sometimes called “exercise in a pill.” By directly acting on genes, exercise mimetics confer the benefits of fitness without training — while improving running, they also lower inflammation, promote weight loss, lower blood sugar and enhance memory.

His NOMIS-supported project is The Science of Health: A New Perspective for Treating Disease.

Anthony Hyman (photo: Tristan Vostry)

Anthony Hyman is group leader at and a director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. Of his many contributions to the field of molecular biology, he is best known for two discoveries in particular: In 2000, he pioneered the use of RNA interference to define the “parts lists” for different cytoplasmic processes. And in 2009, while teaching a physiology course in Woods Hole, he, together with Cliff Brangwynne and Frank Julicher, made a fundamental breakthrough by being the first to observe that compartments in cells can form by phase separation. Aberrant phase transitions within liquid-like compartments may underlie amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative and age-related diseases.

His NOMIS-supported project is Phase Transitions and Biological Condensates: An Important New Paradigm for Understanding Disease.