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University of Basel

14 October 2016

Michael Hall awarded honorary doctorate from the University of Geneva

Prof. Dr. Michael N. Hall. (Image: University of Basel, Biozentrum)
Prof. Dr. Michael N. Hall. (Image: University of Basel, Biozentrum)

The University of Geneva has awarded the biochemist Michael N. Hall, from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, an honorary doctorate. With this distinction, the university is recognizing his outstanding scientific achievements and his continued commitment to the institution.

At a formal ceremony on Dies academicus, the “Day of the Academics” celebrated annually, Prof. Michael N. Hall was awarded the highest distinction from the University of Geneva: Doctor honoris causa. The honorary doctorate is in recognition of both his extraordinary scientific achievements and his sustained commitment to Geneva’s university in various capacities, including serving on the Louis-Jeantet Foundation Council and the External Scientific Advisory Board of the Faculty of Medicine, as pointed out by the Dean of the Medical Faculty Prof. Henri Bounameaux.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by the University of Geneva,” says Hall, who, for almost 30 years, has been conducting research and teaching at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. “To be recognized by one’s peers is the highest honor a scientist can receive. Of course, it is also recognition of the many talented students, postdocs and colleagues with whom I have had the good fortune to work,” says Hall. “The University of Geneva is outstanding and it is gratifying to know that I was able to serve such an institution. Finally, to receive an honorary doctorate from Geneva has extra meaning personally because Switzerland is my adopted country - it makes me feel a little more Swiss.”

TOR – A key protein

How does a cell know what size it should become? How exactly is its growth controlled? These are questions that Hall is investigating in depth in his research. The great breakthrough, which has earned Hall so many distinctions in the last years, took place about 25 years ago. He discovered a protein in yeast that was inhibited by the anti-cancer agent rapamycin. This also led to the protein’s name TOR – target of rapamycin. Later Hall and colleagues discovered that TOR is indeed the key regulatory element of cell growth and is not only found in yeast but also in higher organisms such as mammals.

“For me, the most significant finding”, says Hall, “was that there is a separate, independent signaling pathway controlling cell growth.” Uncontrolled cell growth plays a major role in a range of diseases. Apart from cancer, also common disorders such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease can be traced back to a malfunction of the TOR signaling network.

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