"NOMIS is all about enabling outstanding talent to take on high-risk research."
- Georg Heinrich “Heini” Thyssen, NOMIS Founder

2020 NOMIS Distinguished Scientists

NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Awards (NOMIS Awards) are 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. NOMIS Awards enable these exceptional, established scientists to continue exploring unconventional and uncharted research paths, thereby opening up new research fields and collaborations.

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Professor, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the March of Dimes Chair in Molecular and Developmental Biology

Ronald M. Evans is a 2020 NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and has been a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies since 1978, the director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory since 1995 as well as holder of the March of Dimes Chair in Molecular and Developmental Biology since 1998. He is leading the project The Science of Health: The Fundamental Mechanisms of Organ Communication.

Evans grew up in Los Angeles, California (US) and earned a BA in bacteriology and PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He completed his postdoctoral work at Rockefeller University (US) in 1978 before becoming a faculty member at Salk that same year. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, the Canada Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the March of Dimes Prize and the Keio Medical Science Prize. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 and the National Academy of Medicine in 2003.

Evans has made multiple significant contributions to science, including the discovery of a “superfamily” of molecules called nuclear hormone receptors (NRs), whose members respond to various steroid and thyroid hormones, vitamins A and D, as well as to dietary fats and bile acids. This led to the unifying theory that hormones control gene networks throughout the body, which in turn control physiologic pathways from embryonic development through adulthood. Evans has also identified multiple novel pathways involved in cancer and diabetes that are targetable by drugs that activate these receptors. More recently, he identified exercise mimetics (“exercise in a pill”), a class of drugs that stimulate gene networks in muscle tissue. By directly acting on genes, exercise mimetics confer the benefits of fitness without training — pointing to potential new therapies for children with muscular dystrophy, adults with type 2 diabetes and obese individuals. Evans is further investigating NRs to understand the mechanisms of cooperativity between interconnected networks including the brain, endocrine glands, gut, liver, immune cells and the microbiome.

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Group leader and a director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics

Anthony (Tony) Hyman is a 2020 NOMIS Awardee and has been a group leader at and a director of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, since 1999. He is leading the project Phase Transitions and Biological Condensates: The Molecular Sociology of Cell Organization.

Born in Haifa, Israel, Hyman earned a PhD in molecular biology from the University of Cambridge (UK) in 1987. Following postdoctoral studies at UC San Francisco (US), he formed his first research group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg (Germany) before becoming a founding director of the Max Planck Institute in Dresden. Among numerous other honors, Hyman has been awarded the Wiley Prize, the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the Schleiden Medal and the EMBO Gold Medal and was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1997.

Hyman is studying the mechanisms by which cells compartmentalize their biochemistry. Of his many contributions to the field of molecular biology, he is best known for two discoveries in particular: In 2000, his team 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 Jülicher, 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. Hyman’s current work focuses on the physical-chemical basis by which intrinsically disordered proteins phase separate. Using this knowledge, he is studying the roles of phase separation in physiology and disease.