Salk scientist Ronald Evans will receive the Asan Award in Basic Medicine in 2021

IMAGE: Ronald Evans. view More

Photo credit: Salk Institute

LA JOLLA – (March 18, 2021) Salk Professor Ronald Evans, Director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and Chair of Molecular and Developmental Biology in March by Dimes, has been awarded the Asan Prize for Basic Medicine 2021 by the Asan Foundation.

The Asan Foundation is a Korean foundation that supports critical medical research and social and medical welfare programs. The US $ 250,000 prize is awarded to “medical scientists who have made remarkable contributions in the fields of basic and clinical medicine to the advancement of human health,” according to the Asan Foundation. Evans is the first international recipient of the Asan Award in Basic Medicine.

“We are thrilled that the Asan Foundation recognizes Ron’s significant contributions to medicine,” said Salk President Rusty Gage. “His work has provided valuable insights into numerous physiological processes that enable the development of novel therapies for diabetes, cancer and other metabolic diseases.”

Evans is known for discovering a “superfamily” of 48 genes called nuclear hormone receptors that respond to steroid hormones along with thyroid hormone and vitamins A and D. While this revealed receptors for 7 known hormones, the discovery revealed 39 more receptors involved in previously unknown physiological pathways. This advance ushered in the modern era of molecular endocrinology and found receptors for cell growth, development, inflammation, cancer, diabetes, circadian rhythm, cholesterol metabolism, and even the creation of new brain cells. By creating unique links between genes and hormone activity, his work has revolutionized endocrinology and metabolism and led to the invention of novel classes of drugs that treat diseases through targeted treatment of genes.

He is also a pioneer in identifying exercise mimetics, molecules sometimes collectively referred to as “exercise in a pill”. Exercise mimetics impart the benefits of non-exercising fitness by tricking the body into believing it has expended calories and burning fat. These molecules have the potential to lower inflammation, promote weight loss, lower blood sugar, and improve memory.

Evans earned his BA in Bacteriology and PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Rockefeller University. He has received awards such as the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Wolf Prize in Medicine and the Keio Medical Science Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

“Receiving the Asan Basic Medicine Award was an unexpected surprise and a unique honor,” says Evans. “I am grateful to be the first international recipient of this prestigious award, which makes it particularly memorable.”


About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Every healing has a starting point. The Salk Institute embodies Jonas Salk’s mission to dare to turn dreams into reality. The internationally renowned and award-winning scientists research the fundamentals of life and look for new insights in the fields of neuroscience, genetics, immunology, plant biology and more. The institute is an independent not-for-profit organization and an architectural landmark: small by choice, naturally intimate, and fearless in the face of any challenge. Whether cancer or Alzheimer’s, aging or diabetes, healing begins in Salk. Learn more at

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