Clara Perez, 212-780-0200 x414
John Keaten, 212-780-0200x421
DRAFT – EMBARGOED UNTIL 4.1.08
$1 Million Gotham Prize for Cancer Research Announces First Annual Winner
Ira Sohn Conference Foundation Prize in Pediatric Oncology Also Awarded
Launched by Leading Scientists and Hedge Fund Managers to Accelerate Progress
in the Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancer
NEW YORK, NY – The founders of the “Gotham Prize for Cancer Research” (Gotham Prize), an annual award designed to encourage new and innovative approaches to cancer research by fostering
collaboration among top thinkers in the field, today named Dr. Alexander Varshavsky, the Smits
Professor of Cell Biology at California Institute of Technology, as the first annual winner of the $1
million Gotham Prize for his idea of a new approach to treatment of cancer that takes advantage of
unique changes in the DNA of cancer cells. In addition, the $250,000 Ira Sohn Conference Foundation
Prize in Pediatric Oncology was awarded to Dr. Mark Carol, a neurosurgeon and entrepreneur involved
in various health-related companies, for his idea focused on novel approaches for using radiation
therapy to treat patients with cancer.
The Gotham Prize was launched in 2007 by hedge fund managers Joel Greenblatt and Robert
Goldstein of private investment firm Gotham Capital, and respected medical researcher Dr. Gary
Curhan of Harvard Medical School, with support from the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation and
Ephraim Gildor of Axiom Investment Advisors. Inspired by the memory of Goldstein‟s mother, Hope
Goldstein, who passed away from ovarian cancer, the founders sought a new way to accelerate
progress in cancer research. The Gotham Prize site allows anyone to submit an idea. An advisory board
admits as members those individuals with the most promising and creative ideas, and these ideas can
be seen by anyone who visits the site. The prize winners were selected from among these members by
a distinguished panel of leading scientists from institutions including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and St.
Jude Children's Research Hospital.
“We were incredibly impressed by the quality of ideas that were shared through the Gotham Prize
website, and are pleased to announce our first annual winner,” said Dr. Gary Curhan. “Dr.
Varshavsky‟s innovative idea holds tremendous promise for a new approach to cancer therapy that is potentially curative, universally applicable and possibly free of side effects. It lays out an avenue of
research, mostly unexplored, that could lead to significant progress not only in how we think about and
treat cancer, but also in the pursuit of a cure.”
“I am honored to be the first recipient of the $1 million Gotham Prize for Cancer Research, the benefits
of which go far beyond the monetary value,” said Dr. Alexander Varshavsky. “The challenge of
eliminating cancer – any cancer – decisively, completely and without „collateral damage‟ to a cancer
patient is a major problem that remains fundamentally unsolved, despite enormous efforts by many
scientists and physicians over several decades. The Gotham Prize‟s unusual approach to foster
communications among people working toward curing cancer should benefit the emergence and spread
of new, constructive approaches that the field most certainly needs.”
“We believe that making progress in cancer research means sharing ideas and encouraging out-of-the-
box thinking,” said Joel Greenblatt of Gotham Capital. “The Gotham Prize was created to encourage a bold, new marketplace of ideas - ideas that would not necessarily attract funding from traditional
sources but that could spur breakthrough innovations in cancer research.”
Because the major goal of the Gotham Prize is to encourage individuals to share their ideas, Dr.
Varshavsky will receive $1 million for personal use. His idea involves a new approach, termed
deletion-specific targeting (DST). The goal is to find a genuine Achilles Heel of cancer cells; that is, to
identify a potentially vulnerable feature that won‟t change during the development and progression of a tumor. The DST strategy aims to take advantage of the fact that DNA of many, possibly most, cancers
lack certain DNA segments that are present in normal cells. This would allow drugs to be developed
that would target and kill only cancer cells with the missing DNA segments without affecting normal
“Although the winning idea for the Gotham Prize was submitted by a world-renowned scientist
from the California Institute of Technology, almost no funding from government,
foundations or commercial enterprises has yet been dedicated to pursue this
promising new avenue in the fight against cancer,” said Dr. Curhan. “It is the hope of the Gotham
Prize Board of Directors that this award will encourage further funding for research into this
potentially groundbreaking field.”
Born and educated in Russia, Dr. Alexander Varshavsky emigrated to the U.S. in 1977, working first
in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology‟s Department of Biology for fifteen years before moving
to Caltech in 1992. Dr. Varshavsky is a member of the U.S. National Academy Sciences, the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and foreign member of
the Academia Europaea and the European Molecular Biology Organization. Among his scientific
awards are the Lasker Award in Medical Research (2000), the General Motors Sloan Prize in Cancer
Research (2000) and the Griffuel Prize in Cancer Research (2006).
In addition, Dr. Mark Carol was awarded the annual $250,000 Ira Sohn Conference Foundation Prize
in Pediatric Oncology for his innovate idea for radiation therapy, which is used to treat many types of
cancer. His idea is to deliver low-energy X-rays in sufficient amounts to kill cancer cells while at the
same time protecting healthy cells and tissue. This is particularly important for pediatric cancer
patients, since children are especially at risk for long-term side effects from exposure to radiation.
“Dr. Carol‟s idea is compelling in that it addresses many of the challenges currently faced in radiation
therapy - from the difficulty of separating cancerous from normal cells, to the expense of traditional
equipment - and because it is especially attractive for its application to the pediatric population,” said
Dr. Gary Curhan of the Gotham Prize. “Tissue in children is especially susceptible to damage from
radiation and exposure to it may cause problems as they get older, so the prospect of being able to
target only cancerous – rather than healthy – tissue using lower doses of radiation holds great promise.”
"I was excited about the creation of the Gotham Prize because it was specifically designed to support
and reward individuals not necessarily affiliated with an academic institution. The process they
established encourages individuals to think freely, think wildly and, through peer discussion, nurture
the germ of an idea that will perhaps lead to fundamental breakthroughs in cancer research,” said Dr.
Mark Carol. “In my case, if my idea bears fruit, it has the potential become the standard of care in
radiation therapy not just for pediatric cancer patients, but for all cancer patients.”
The Ira Sohn Research Conference Foundation - which was founded in 1995 in honor of Ira Sohn, a
successful Wall Street trader who died of cancer at the age of 29 - is providing support for both prizes,
as well as for the Gotham Prize website.
“Dr. Carol‟s idea has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of pediatric cancer patients,
improving the quality of life for children around the world who are affected by cancer,” said Dan Nir,
head of the Ira Sohn Foundation. “Ira was committed to helping children affected by cancer, and it is
an honor to continue his legacy by supporting advances in pediatric cancer research through the Ira
Sohn Research Conference Foundation Prize in Pediatric Oncology.”
Dr. Carol received his M.D. with distinction in research from University of Rochester in 1978, and
went on to complete a residency in neurosurgery at the University of Maryland. After a short period of
time spent in clinical practice, Dr. Carol went on to found several medical device companies, including
NOMOS, where he developed technology related to stereotactic surgery, holographic-guided surgery,
inverse treatment planning, intensity modulation radiation therapy and image guided radiation therapy.
Most recently he was the founder and CTO of the DxTx Corporation, a company that developed novel
approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of early stage lung cancer, and Enki, Inc., an early stage
startup company focused on novel approaches to the delivery of radiation therapy for benign and
The Gotham Prize was founded as a new way to encourage innovations in cancer research by
addressing some of the obstacles that currently exist: Namely, the fact that in spite of the billions of
dollars that have been invested in cancer research, many promising research ideas do not receive
support, either because they go against the mainstream; because of a lack of funding to test new ideas;
or because for competitive reasons preliminary research isn‟t shared. The Gotham Prize was created to
overcome these obstacles by bringing together through its website top minds in the field and providing
them with an ongoing forum to exchange ideas and connect with potential sources of funding. All
member ideas submitted for the Prize are made available on the website to all foundations, individuals
and groups that fund cancer research. With prior permission, members will also be matched with other
scientists who may be able to assist or collaborate on individual projects.
The winners were chosen by the Gotham Prize Advisory Board, which includes such distinguished
scientists as Dr. Bert Vogelstein of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was the first to elucidate
the molecular basis of a common human cancer and is currently the most highly cited scientist in the
world, and Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard Medical School, the most highly cited scientist in clinical
medicine over the past two decades.
The Prize is open to anyone. To be eligible to win, individuals are required to apply online to become
pre-qualified members of the Gotham Prize for Cancer Research website. The Advisory Board selects
the members based on these applications. Once accepted, members are required to share their ideas
and concepts on the Gotham Prize website by posting a short thesis/proposal and answering questions
from the Advisory Board as well as other members and guests. Applicants are judged on the
importance and description of the idea; the feasibility of studying it; and the message string that starts
among members of the site after an idea was posted.
“We would like to thank the many individuals who submitted their ideas and participated in the
discussions on the Gotham Prize website,” said Robert Goldstein of Gotham Capital. “In addition, it is
tremendously gratifying to be able to recognize two ideas that the Advisory Board believes hold great
promise for practical applications in the field of cancer research.”
The following Advisory Board members selected the winners: Dr. Gary Curhan, an Associate
Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard
School of Public Health; Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Dr.
Meir Stampfer, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Epidemiology at
Harvard School of Public Health, where he served as department chair; Dr. George Teebor, a Professor
at New York University School of Medicine; Dr. Joseph R. Bertino, Associate Director of the New
Jersey Cancer Center and University Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at UMDNJ-Robert
Wood Johnson; and Dr. Michael Kastan, Director of the Cancer Center at St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
About the Gotham Prize The annual $1 million Gotham Prize for Cancer Research has been established to encourage new and
innovative approaches to cancer research by fostering collaboration among top thinkers in the field.
An additional prize of $250,000, the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation Prize in pediatric oncology, is
also awarded. In addition to providing these annual prizes, the Gotham Prize website provides a forum
to match cancer researchers with each other, as well as with potential sources of funding. The 2008
Gotham Prizes will be announced in March 2009. For more information, please visit
About The Ira Sohn Research Conference Foundation
The Ira Sohn Research Conference was founded in 1995 after the untimely passing of Ira Sohn, a
successful trader on Wall Street. After a valiant battle with cancer, Ira passed away at the age of 29.
His passion inspired his colleagues to launch the annual Ira Sohn Research Conference to raise funds
for the care and treatment of children with pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The
organizations served include the Tomorrows Children‟s Fund at Hackensack University Medical
Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center, and ArtWorks. The
Foundation will also be sponsoring a pediatric cancer research prize to support and promote ground
breaking medical and scientific work in the field of oncology.
About Dr. Alexander Varshavsky
Dr. Alexander Varshavsky is Smits Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology
(Caltech) in Pasadena, California. Born and educated in Russia, Dr. Alexander Varshavsky emigrated
to the U.S. in 1977, working in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology‟s Department of Biology for
fifteen years before moving to Caltech in 1992. Over the last three decades, Dr. Varshavsky‟s work
has focused on the ubiquitin system. Through a set of interconnected discoveries in the 1980s, his
laboratory showed that ubiquitin-dependent processes play a strikingly broad, previously unsuspected
part in cellular physiology. Another line of studies by Dr. Varshavsky is a search for more efficacious,
more selective approaches to cancer therapy. He recently described a set of new ideas that comprise
the strategy of deletion-specific targeting of cancer cells (Proceedings of the Natl. Academy of
Sciences, USA 104, 14935-14940 (2007). Dr. Varshavsky is a member of the U.S. National Academy Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and
foreign member of the Academia Europaea and the European Molecular Biology Organization. Among his many scientific awards are the Gairdner International Award (1999), the Lasker Award in Medical Research (2000), the General Motors Sloan Prize in Cancer Research (2000), the Wolf Prize in Medicine (2001), and the Griffuel Prize in Cancer Research (2006).
About Dr. Mark Carol
Mark Carol received his M.D. with distinction in research from University of Rochester in 1978, and went on to complete a residency in neurosurgery at the University of Maryland. After a short period of time spent in clinical practice, Dr. Carol went on to found several medical device companies, including NOMOS, where he developed technology related to stereotactic surgery, holographic-guided surgery, inverse treatment planning, intensity modulation radiation therapy, and image guided radiation therapy. Most recently he was the founder and CTO of the DxTx Corporation, a company that developed novel approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of early stage lung cancer, and Enki, Inc., an early stage startup company focused on novel approaches to the delivery of radiation therapy for benign and malignant disease. He is currently the medical director at Xoft, a company that is an innovative technological leader in radiation oncology. He has published extensively in the fields of radiation therapy and neurosurgery, and holds more than a dozen patents in radiation therapy, neurosurgery, and cardiology. He recently was awarded an honorary membership in the American Association of Physicists in Medicine for his contributions to the field, an honor granted previously only 12 times.