When some of the world’s brightest minds meet for pasta

By their very nature, Vilcek Prize honorees come from all over the world: Since the inaugural Vilcek Prize ceremony in 2006, the foundation has recognized immigrants from more than 40 countries. Despite their national diversity (or perhaps because of it), a large portion of our honorees call the San Francisco Bay Area home. So when our founder, Jan Vilcek, traveled west to receive the Seymour and Vivian Milstein Award from The International Cytokine and Interferon Society, he decided to use the opportunity to bring them together.

On Saturday, October 15, nine Vilcek Prize honorees and their guests gathered around a large table in the "Dough Room" of Flour + Water, a restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco. With so many scientific minds together, the lively conversation inevitably turned to recent discoveries. 2014 Vilcek Prizewinner Peter Walter shared with the audience his story of stumbling upon ISRIB, a remarkable molecule that has been shown in trials to significantly improve the memory of mice. Though the medical applications of ISRIB are still uncertain, Peter believes it has the potential to help treat many degenerative brain conditions.

Attendees also took the chance to congratulate 2009 Creative Promise Prize finalist Katerina Akassoglou, who just received an eight-year $5.8 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), as well as 2013 Creative Promise Prizewinner Michael Rape, who was named the recipient of the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists.

The evening was full of thoughtful discussions, but there was one topic that everyone had a personal connection to—the tremendous impact that immigration has on the scientific community in the United States. "When you are in a room with so many remarkable people from around the world,” Jan said, “who all came here to pursue their passions, it’s difficult not to realize that this is what makes America so special."

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