The Sabri Ülker Foundation was established in memory of Sabri Ülker; a doyen of the Turkish Food Industry, and inspired by his philosophy of life. The vision of the Foundation is to be an independent and trustworthy contributor to public awareness on food, nutrition and health as a non-profit organization. Since its inception Sabri Ülker Foundation pursued this vision through its interactions with many governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as local and international Universities and other educational institutions with the goal of improving public health.
In order to encourage new and impactful scientific research in the area of nutrition, metabolism and public health, the Foundation has implemented the Sabri Ülker International Science Award. This award aims to recognize early stage independent scientists who are engaged in the highest quality of nutrition and metabolism research in all areas that can contribute to future improvements in public health.
The winner of the 2018 Sabri Ülker Science Award was Asst. Prof. Dr. Ömer Yılmaz, lecturer at the Cancer Research Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his project "Dietary control of stem cells in physiology and disease". The award was presented at a ceremony held in conjunction with the second "Metabolism and Life Symposium" that took place at Harvard University Memorial Hall in May, 2018.
Ali Ülker, Vice President of Yıldız Holding, Prof. Michael Brown and Prof. Joseph Goldstein, Nobel Prize winners in Medicine, and Prof. Gökhan Hotamışlıgil, President of the Sabri Ülker Metabolic Research Center presented the award to the winner.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Ömer Yılmaz's research has focused on elucidating how nutritional regimes which cause obesity affect intestinal stem cells. In addition, it has addressed how obesity can trigger intestinal tumorigenesis. His investigations have revealed that a high-fat diet enhances the mutation of stem cells, increasing tumor risk. Yılmaz's research, entitled "High-fat diet enhances stemness and tumorigenicity of intestinal progenitors" has been published in Nature (2016, 531: 53-58).
Asst. Prof. Dr. Ömer Yılmaz completed a dual MD-PhD program at the University of Michigan Medical School. In 2007 his PhD project was granted the Harold M. Weintraub Award for the best international PhD study in biological sciences. Yılmaz completed his postdoctoral studies in 2011 in the field of pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was later appointed as Assistant Professor at the Koch Institute in 2014. Asst. Prof. Dr. Ömer Yılmaz has been awarded grants by the Sidney Kimmel Foundation, the V Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trust. His work also received funding from the National Institutes of Health, USA as well as the AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award, all of which has enabled him to establish his own laboratory at the Koch Institute. He is continuing his research on intestinal stem cells in adults, focusing on how these are affected by environmental factors such as nutrition and foods and their susceptibility to disease. Further information about Dr. Yilmaz's research program can be found at https://ki.mit.edu/people/faculty/yilmaz or https://yilmaz-lab.mit.edu/
Earlier recipients of the Sabri Ülker International Science Award
2017: Asst. Prof. Ebru Erbay, Bilkent University
2016: Asst. Prof. Kıvanç Birsoy, Rockefeller University
Jury members of the Sabri Ülker Science Award 2019
Kıvanç Birsoy, Ebru Erbay, Ömer Yılmaz, Zeki Sözen, Gökhan S. Hotamisligil.