Inside Stanford Medicine, April 16th, 2014

Seung Kim, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, has been named the winner of the 2014 Ho-Am Prize in Medicine.

The prize, which consists of a certificate, a gold medal and 300 million South Korean won (about $288,000), will be presented to Kim at an awards ceremony in Seoul on May 30. During the same week, Kim will lecture on his work throughout South Korea.

Kim studies the development of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. He has identified key pathways involved in beta cell development and expansion, bringing scientists ever closer to being able to generate or regenerate functional human beta cells.

"During his clinical training at Harvard hospitals in Boston, Dr. Kim encountered patients suffering and dying from diseases rooted in the pancreas, including diabetes mellitus and pancreatic adenocarcinoma," said Stanford President John Hennessy in his letter to the Ho-Am committee nominating Kim for the award. "Convinced he could contribute to improving diagnosis and treatment of these diseases, he focused his research investigations on understanding mechanisms regulating development, growth and function of the pancreas. In the past decade he has become a leader in his field, making seminal contributions that have influenced diabetes and cancer research and strategies for clinical therapeutics."

"It is a great honor to be recognized by the Ho-Am Foundation for this work," said Kim. "It reminds me how grateful I am to those who nurtured, trained, guided and supported me, and to my students and research team for their hard work and dedication. That said, we still have a great deal left to accomplish, and the affirmation from this award will help us continue to pursue our goals."

The Ho-Am Prize, which honors Samsung founder Byung-Chull Lee (nicknamed Ho-Am), is awarded in five categories — science, engineering, medicine, the arts and community service — to people of Korean descent. The community service prize, however, may be given to non-ethnic Koreans for outstanding contributions to Korea and Koreans at home and abroad.