The award recognises Professor Ratcliffe's work, funded through a Wellcome Senior Fellowship, into how human and animal cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen levels in their environment.
Understanding what cells do to cope with varying amounts of oxygen opens up the possibility of manipulating these processes to boost or dampen the body’s response when this happens.
That could lead to new therapeutic applications for a wide range of disorders in which cells die because they are getting either too much or little oxygen, such as anaemia, cardiovascular disease, macular degeneration and cancer.
Professor Ratcliffe shares the $250,000 prize with Professor William Kaelin of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, and with Professor Gregg Semenza of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome's Director, said: "We are delighted that the Lasker Awards have acknowledged Professor Ratcliffe's outstanding achievements and are proud to have supported his research. It represents a real triumph of fellowship funding and highlights the vital importance of strong basic science research in improving human health. Warmest and thoroughly well-deserved congratulations go to Professor Ratcliffe."