Home Insider Myanmar Scientist Wins Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Work on Cancer Research

Myanmar Scientist Wins Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Work on Cancer Research

Yimon Aye, a Howard Milstein faculty fellow and assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University, with a secondary appointment at Weill Cornell Medicine has won the 2017 Pershing Square Prize in Cancer Research, which supports New Yorkbased scientists exploring innovative avenues in the fight against cancer as young investigator. Aye said one unique aspect of this award was the panel of experts – 30 of the leading cancer biologists in the country, including several Nobel laureates – who conducted the interviews during the third and final stage of the proposal process. “I have gone through other award competitions,” said Aye, who won a Beckman Young Investigator Award, a National Science Foundation early career award and an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award in 2014, a Sloan Foundation fellowship in 2016 and an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator award in 2017. “But this one was special because several of the interviewers are highly accomplished scientists you wouldn’t often get the opportunity to meet, let alone talk science with or be grilled by. So, when I was invited for the third-round interviews, I was just so excited for the chance to meet these people and I’m always been interested in applying my chemistry and chemical biology insights to real-world relevance in human medicine and I was very honored to get the secondary appointment to Weill Cornell Medicine, which was a big attraction to me in addition to Cornell being a strong university,” said Aye, who has been a lecturer to first-year medical students at Weill Cornell every fall since her arrival. The awards, established in 2014, are given by the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance, dedicated to accelerating cures for cancer by advancing innovative cancer research and by facilitating collaborations between the science and business communities. It has created a prestigious program that awards substantial funding to exceptional young scientists in New York City with innovative ideas in the field of cancer research. Yimon Aye is one of six New York City scientists who win Pershing Square Sohn Prize for young investigators in cancer research.

Yimon Aye’s success started from the time she stood 3rd in the whole country in Myanmar’s matriculation exams. She won a scholarship at Cambridge Tutors College (CTC), UK to do her ‘A’ levels from 1998 till 2000. In the June 2000 A-level exams, Yimon gained top marks in the whole world for Chemistry and won the Royal Society of Chemistry’s National Prize. She also won a place at Oxford University where she went on to achieve First Class Honours on her degree course in Chemistry. Whilst at Oxford University, Yimon was chosen as the British Council’s very first International Student of the Year, receiving her award in 2003.

She moved to the UK to study for sixth form (high school) and then read chemistry at Oxford University, UK (2004). After Oxford University, Yimon took a post-graduate course in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University where she gained a PhD in organic chemistry under the supervision of Professor Dave Evans (2009). After her time at Harvard, Yimon was the Damon Runyun Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she researched the cellular and biochemical regulatory mechanisms of the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase (RNR). Since July 2012, Yimon has been Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University and in 2014 was awarded the US National Institutes of Health Director’s “New Innovator Award” for her groundbreaking project entitled Deconvoluting redox biology with targeted chemistry. The 5-year award came with a $2.29 million grant supporting exceptionally creative new investigators who propose highly innovative projects with the potential for unusually high biomedical impact. In February 2016, Yimon was named recipient of a fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which supports early career faculty members’ original research and broad-based education related to science, technology and economic performance.