Bonnie Bassler with fellow researchers of the Bassler Lab from summer 2022.

Microbiologist Bonnie Bassler awarded Albany Prize for quorum sensing

Bonnie Bassler (center, back row) with fellow researchers of the Bassler Lab from summer 2022.

Bonnie Bassler has been awarded the 2023 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research. Bassler shares the prize with Jeffrey I. Gordon of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Dennis L. Kasper of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The award recognized the three as "scientists whose research has advanced the study and understanding of microbiomes and bacteria and how they communicate in the body and cause or prevent disease."

"I am grateful to and proud of the many scientists who have come through my lab to go on this scientific adventure with me," said Bassler, who is Princeton's Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology, chair of the department and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "It has been a privilege and thrilling to work with the team as they try to change the perception of bacteria from being thought of as asocial loners to being considered sophisticated interacting organisms that, by acting as collectives, can have a profound influence on nature, health and disease."

Bassler first discovered that bacteria communicate during her postdoctoral work, and she has spent her career identifying and characterizing the molecules that bacteria use to coordinate collective behaviors and share other kinds of information.

Bassler and her team have demonstrated that interactions across all domains of life — eukaryotic, bacterial and viral — all depend on this chemical communication. Her body of research provides a new way to think about microbes, how to support the helpful ones and combat the harmful ones.

Among her many honors, Bassler has received the Wolf Prize, the Canada Gairdner International Award, the Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, the MacArthur Fellowship, the UNESCO-L’Oreal Woman in Science for North America, and the Genetics Society of America Medal. She is member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

The Albany Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research is one of the most prestigious awards in medicine and science in the United States. The $500,000 prize has been awarded annually since 2001 for exceptional work in medicine and biomedical research. It was established by the late Morris “Marty” Silverman to honor scientists whose work has translated from “the bench to the bedside,” resulting in better outcomes for patients.

Prior recipients include Nobel laureates Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, CRISPR pioneers Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna, and Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.