2022 NOMIS Award presented to two pioneering scientists

October 21, 2022

Recognizing their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and human progress through their pioneering, innovative and collaborative research, the 2022 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award was presented to Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of Cambridge and to Thomas A. Rando of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) at a ceremony held at the Kongresshaus Zurich on Oct. 6, 2022.

NOMIS Awardees Janet Currie and Victoria Orphan, together with NOMIS Managing Director Markus Reinhard, presented the 2022 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award to Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and Thomas A. Rando in Zurich on Oct. 6, 2022. Pictured are (l-r) Currie, Rando, Zernicka-Goetz, Orphan and Reinhard. (Photo: David Biedert)

The ceremony not only pays tribute to these pioneering scientists, it also provides an opportunity to bring together accomplished researchers from a broad range of disciplines, including past NOMIS Awardees Manos Tsakiris, who led a panel discussion with the new awardees on fast and slow science, as well as Victoria Orphan, Janet CurrieRobert Ewers, Tony Wyss-CorayAdriano Aguzzi and Svante Pääbo, who recently received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Also in attendance were NOMIS researchers and other members of the scientific community, including representatives of world-class research institutes, research benefactors and NOMIS partners.

NOMIS Awardee Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz is the Bren Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech and professor of stem cell biology and development at the University of Cambridge. Through her NOMIS-supported project, Opening the Black Box of Human Implantation, Zernicka-Goetz aims to illuminate the journey of an embryo from a fertilized single cell to a complex structure with multiple cell types and to discover the key pathways and events that set the stage for proper development. Her research will recreate and reveal a period of human development—the beginning of life—that has been entirely inaccessible until now and could lead to clinical interventions for many diseases, from developmental disorders to infertility.

NOMIS Awardee Thomas A. Rando

Thomas A. Rando is the director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine and of molecular, cell and developmental biology in the School of Life Sciences at UCLA. His NOMIS-supported project, Stem Cell Quiescence: A Microcosm of Evolutionary Survival Mechanisms, is enabling him to investigate stem cell quiescence—a dormant, highly resilient state that enables long-term survival of stem cells. Rando’s research will provide unprecedented detail regarding the molecular regulation of stem cell quiescence as well as molecular insights into a cellular model of the evolutionary trade-off between survival and reproduction, a trade-off that is at the very core of the evolution of species.

NOMIS Insight lectures illuminate fundamental research

Nobel Laureate Didier Queloz (Photo: David Biedert)

In the tradition of NOMIS Award ceremony, the new awardees presented their research at the NOMIS Insight lectures at the Kunsthaus in Zurich on Oct. 5. Didier Queloz, Nobel Laureate and director of the Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life at ETH Zurich, gave the keynote address, describing the path to his discovery of an exoplanet, which earned him the Nobel Prize and set the stage for future research. Queloz closed his talk by acknowledging the importance of making new connections and establishing new ways of working to answer big questions, saying, “We have to combine the disciplines together.”

NOMIS Awardee Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz (Photo: David Biedert)

Turning to the origins of human life, Zernicka-Goetz presented her insights on the principles of self-organization in the first stages of embryonic development. This research is the basis of her NOMIS research project. Zernicka-Goetz said, “I very much hope that these next few years will allow us to make progress in understanding […] this implantation stage of development, which is often failing even before we know we are pregnant.”

NOMIS Awardee Thomas A. Rando (Photo: David Biedert)

Rando, whose work addresses stem cell aging and repair, shared his insights on stem cell quiescence, the remarkable ability of individual stem cells to either engage in tissue repair or maintain tissues, which is the focus of his NOMIS research project. While his work seeks to answer fundamental questions, Rando said it “could actually have impacts beyond just the basic biology we’re studying. […] Understanding how cells allocate their resources toward this issue of survival, which is really the issue of transplantation, can lead to enhancements in stem cell therapeutics.”

NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award

Established in 2016, the NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Award is presented to pioneering scientists and scholars who, through their innovative, groundbreaking research, have made a significant contribution to their respective fields and who inspire the world around them. Their bold ideas and unique approaches involve interdisciplinary collaboration and apply a broad range of methods, building bridges across the boundaries of disciplines. The NOMIS Award is enabling the researchers to continue following their unique research paths.

NOMIS Foundation

The NOMIS Foundation supports and enables insight-driven science across all disciplines, focusing on researchers who put forth bold new ideas, exhibit a pioneering spirit and seek to inspire the world around them. NOMIS’ vision is to “create a spark” in the world of science by enabling and supporting pioneering research in the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities that benefits humankind and our planet.