Thomas Jessell Among The First Recipients Of The Kavli Prizes

Columbia University's Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D. Among First Recipients

New York (May 28, 2008) Columbia University Medical Center today announced that Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D., Claire Tow Professor of the departments of neuroscience & biochemistry and molecular biophysics and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at CUMC, is among the first recipients of the Kavli prizes.

Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D.

Awarded the neuroscience prize, Dr. Jessell is credited with transforming human knowledge in the field, revealing the chemical signals behind the differentiation of early progenitor cells into the complex assembly of different types of neurons that make up neuronal circuits.

Dr. Jessell is among three scientists who received the neuroscientist prize for collectively deciphering the basic mechanisms which govern the development and functioning of the networks of cells in the brain and spinal cord.

The three scientists, along with four others, were selected for their groundbreaking research that has significantly advanced our understanding of the unusual properties of matter on an ultra-small scale, the basic circuitry of the human brain and the nature of quasars.

The new Kavli prizes are a partnership between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The three biennial awards will complement the Nobel Prizes which since 1901 have been given for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.

The joint seven winners of the Kavli prizes, from the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan and the US, will receive a scroll, medal and a share of the $1,000,000 prize for each subject. Ole Didrik Lærum, President of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, revealed the names of those selected to receive the awards at a ceremony in Oslo. The announcement was transmitted via a live simulcast to Columbia University, New York, where it was part of the opening of the first annual World Science Festival.

The Kavli Prize is named after and funded by Fred Kavli, the entrepreneur and philanthropist who was inspired to seek a career in science and engineering while marvelling at the northern lights in the skies above the tiny Norwegian village where he grew up. He later moved to the US where he founded the Kavlico Corporation, which became one of the world's largest suppliers of sensors for aeronautic, automotive and industrial application.

Attending the ceremony in New York, Mr. Kavli said: The Kavli Prizes were created to recognize achievements in three exceptionally exciting fields which we believe promise remarkable future discoveries and benefits for humanity in the 21st century and beyond.

Since my days in Norway, I have pondered the universe, the planet, nature, and the wonders of man. Through these prizes, we hope to honor, support and bring recognition to scientists who have not only pondered the same questions, but whose work has profoundly advanced the frontiers of our knowledge.

We aim to do so while raising people's awareness of the benefits of fundamental science to their own, everyday lives.


Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia's College of Physicians & Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree. Among the most selective medical schools in the country, the school is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York State and one of the largest in the country.

About Columbia University A leading academic and research university, Columbia continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia's extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations, and community partnerships help define the University's underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King's College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. For more information, visit

For detailed information on each of the prizes, the winners and their work, see explanatory notes for each of the prizes.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters Drammensveien 78, 0271 Oslo, Norway Phone +47 22 12 10 90 Fax +47 22 12 10 99 See also: The Kavli Prize The Kavli Foundation


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