Previous Awardees

See a list of previous Switzer Awardees and David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Annual Lectureship Awardees.

See awardees

The Switzer Prize

Exploration with the potential to inspire transformative change

Honoring the basic research that facilitates breakthroughs in patient care.

Arlene H. Sharpe, MD, PhD

Arlene H. Sharpe, MD, PhD won the 2022  Switzer Prize, which honors excellence in basic science research. Dr. Sharpe is the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology and Chair of the Department of Immunology at Harvard Medical School. She is the Co-Director of the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is Co-Leader of MassCPR (Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness) established in March 2020 by Harvard Medical School to respond to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and prepare for emerging pathogens of the future.

Dr. Sharpe is a leader in the field of T cell costimulation. Her laboratory has discovered and elucidated the functions of T cell costimulatory pathways, including the immunoinhibitory functions of the CTLA-4 and PD-1 pathways, which have become exceptionally promising targets for cancer immunotherapy. 

See eligibility 

About the Switzer Prize

The Switzer Prize recognizes discoveries in basic research in the biological and biomedical sciences that have the potential to inspire transformative breakthroughs in medicine.

The prize is awarded annually to an individual investigator whose recent work has revealed new paradigms, illuminated biological processes or pathways, or explained the origins of pathologies or diseases.

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA established the prize to promote the importance of basic sciences research, which advances the understanding of biological systems and human physiology. Such research – a priority at UCLA – is essential to continued improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of illnesses.

The winner will receive a $25,000 honorarium and present an annual Switzer Prize lecture at UCLA. During a two-day visit, the recipient also will meet with students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and others. The Switzer Prize is named in recognition of the generosity of Irma and Norman Switzer, who made a major gift to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"An enduring legacy of two people who clearly cared about the future of medicine and science."

Gene Block, PhD, UCLA Chancellor

Nomination Process

Eligibility 

The Switzer Prize honors revolutionary discoveries in basic research in the biological and biomedical sciences and celebrates recent advances with the potential to inspire transformative breakthroughs in medicine. The prize is awarded to an individual investigator whose recent work has revealed new paradigms, illuminated biological processes or pathways, or explained the origins of pathologies or diseases. The recent work must show the potential for continued outstanding contributions to the field.

Nominations are open to national and international candidates from any institution. Nominations may be made by an individual or institutions, but self-nominations are prohibited.

Guidelines

To nominate a researcher for the 2022 Switzer Prize, please complete a nomination form and submit a letter of nomination along with a short summary. The summary should include no more than 100 words summarizing the nominee’s most important accomplishments, in addition to the letter of recommendation explaining his or her contributions to basic research in the biological or biomedical sciences.

Nominations may be made only via this website. Nominations will not be accepted by email or delivery of hard copies.

Contact Information

For General Inquiries:
Switzer Prize Committee
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
10833 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Committee staff: Dion Baybridge
Phone: (310) 794-7374
EmailDBaybridge@mednet.ucla.edu

Submit a nomination

Deadline

The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2022.

The Prize

The winner, to be named in Spring 2022, will receive a $25,000 honorarium. The recipient will deliver the annual Switzer Prize lecture at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Fall 2022.

Kathrin Plath, Committee Chair, Professor of Biological Chemistry

Olujimi Ajijola, Director, Medical Scientist Training Program

Judy Gasson, Sr. Advisor, Research and Innovation

Ming Guo, Professor of Neurologyand Molecular & MedicalPharmacology

Brigitte Gomperts, Associate Professor, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Emilie Marcus, Executive Strategy Officer, Dean's Office

Jeffery F. Miller, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics

Peter Tontonoz, Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Owen Witte, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics and Molecular & Medical Pharmacology

Larry Zipursky, Chair, Neuroscience Theme


Committee Appointment

Selection committee members, appointed by the dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, are faculty members representing a range of research expertise in biological and biomedical sciences. The committee independently reviews nominations and selects the prize winner.

Previous Awardees

Year Awardee Lecture Title
2020 Amita Sehgal, PhD Using a Small Animal Model to Understand How and Why We Sleep
2019 Zhijian (James) Chen, PhD The Dark Side of DNA - How DNA Triggers Immune Defense and Autoimmune Disease
2018 David Sabatini, MD, PhD mTOR and Lysosomes in Growth Control
2017 Huda Zoghbi, MD Genetics and Neurophysiological Approaches to Tackle Neurodevelopmental Disorders
2015 Jennifer Doudna, PhD The CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Engineering Revolution
2014 David Eisenberg, Dphil The amyloid state of proteins: from fundamentals to disease applications
2013 Zhu Chen, MD Translational Medicine from Cure of Leukemia to Universal Coverage
2012 Huda Zoghbi, MD Neurobiology of Rett Syndrome and Related Neuropsychiatry Disorder
2010 Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD Genes, Genomes and the future of Medicine
2009 Eric Olson, PhD MicroRNA Control of Heart Development and Disease
2008 Joanne Brugge, PhD Mechanisms of Cell Death that Regulate Survival During Morphogenesis and Tumorigenesis
2006 Salvador Moncada, MD, PhD Mitochondrial Interactions: The Next Frontier in Nitric Oxide Research
2005 Ronald Evans, PhD PPARdelta and the Marathon Mouse: Runaway Physiology
2004 Carla Shatz, PhD Brain Waves and Immune Genes in Synapse Remodeling and Plasticity
2002 Jerard Diamond, PhD The Next Half Billion Cases of Diabetes' Evolution and Future
2001 Seymour Benzer, PhD Adventures with Genes, Neurons, and Behavior in Drosophila
2000 Robert Horvitz, PhD Genetic Control of Apoptosis in Caenorhabditis elegans
1999 Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD New Ways of Thinking About Telomeres and Telomerase
1998 Richard Axel, MD The Molecular Logic of Olfactory Perception
1996 Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD The Human Genome Project and the Future of Medicine

Irma and Norman Switzer

An Enduring Legacy

The Switzer Prize is named in recognition of Irma and Norman Switzer, a Pacific Palisades couple who bequeathed a major gift to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Friends remembered them as humble people who lived modest lives and liked to work with their hands.

Norman Switzer, a Korean War veteran, devised the concept of adding benches to bus stops throughout Los Angeles. In exchange for funding and building the benches, the city awarded his company a 20-year exclusive on advertising.

Irma and Norman Switzer
Irma and Norman Switzer
Norman Bench Advertising

Norman Bench Ads

Bus-bench ads became known in the industry as “Norman Bench Ads” – a nod to his advertising company and his concept. Switzer later sold the business and became a real estate investor, often working on the properties himself. Norman Switzer died in 2011 at the age of 84.

Irma Switzer, an accomplished weaver, and member of the Palisades Weavers group, physically built two homes in Manhattan Beach with a friend. She died in 2013 at the age of 93.

In their will, the Switzers left $50 million to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, for use on priorities selected by school leaders. When the gift was announced in 2014, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called it “an enduring legacy of two people who clearly cared about the future of medicine and science.”

Repairing People, Making Discoveries

In their honor, the UCLA Health Sciences Plaza has been renamed the Irma and Norman Switzer Plaza – a location traversed by thousands of physicians, scientific researchers, and students.

At the naming ceremony, a friend said Norman Switzer liked to invest in people who knew how to fix things - which is “the heart of medicine, repairing people and making discoveries - and by giving to UCLA, he was giving to the guys who ‘fix stuff’.”

The couple was also involved with the Fowler Museum at UCLA and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.