David M. Sabatini


Biology and Biomedicine

12th Edition

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology and Biomedicine has gone in this twelfth edition to U.S. researchers Michael Hall and David Sabatini, for discovering the cellular mechanism that is “the major regulator of growth in animal cells, and plays a central role in physiology, metabolism, ageing and cancer,” in the words of the committee.


The molecular mechanisms that regulate the growth of organisms and coordinate it with the availability of nutrients were unknown until two decades ago. Based on the work of Michael N. Hall And David M. Sabatini, we now know that the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) pathway is the major regulator of growth in animal cells and plays a central role in physiology,  Metabolism, aging and cancer. The origin of the mTOR field can be traced to the isolation of rapamycin, a bacterial molecule discovered in Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Rapamycin was found to Have a potent effect on cell size and growth, which triggered a quest for the identification of its molecular targets. The work of Michael Hall in yeast and David Sabatini in mammalian cells led To the discovery that rapamycin inhibits the activity of an enzyme which we now call mTOR.

Subsequent, independent work by Hall and Sabatini laboratories revealed that mTOR is a central component of the critical signaling pathway controlling how cell growth is regulated by Nutrients and growth signals. Disruption of this signaling pathway is linked to numerous diseases, from cancer to neurodevelopmental disorders, and many clinical approaches have been Designed to target mTOR or other molecules in the pathway.