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NHLBI grantees to receive Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012

Office of the Director - October 11, 2012

Two head shots of middle-aged men in dress shirts
Left: Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D. Credit: Stewart Waller/PR Newswire. © HHMI. Right: Brian K. Kobilka, M.D. Credit: L.A. Cicero/Stanford News Service.

Congratulations to NHLBI grantees Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D., of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center, and Brian K. Kobilka, M.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine, on being selected to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 for their studies of G-protein-coupled receptors, which enable cells to sense and respond to outside signals such as adrenaline surges.

"About half of all medications, including beta blockers, antihistamines, and various kinds of psychiatric medications, act through these receptors," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "Learning more about G-protein-coupled receptors will help researchers develop better, more effective drugs."

"Lefkowitz and Kobilka's groundbreaking work opened the door to understanding how blood pressure and heart rate are regulated in response to hormones such as adrenaline. It led to the development of beta-adrenergic receptor blockers that are used to treat such conditions as high blood pressure, angina, and coronary heart disease," said NHLBI Director Gary H. Gibbons, M.D.

The NHLBI has provided almost $15 million in funding for Lefkowitz since 1974. The NHLBI, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences have also provided substantial support to Kobilka, whose post-doctoral training was supported by the NHLBI and who served as a post-doctoral fellow in Lefkowitz's lab in the 1980s.

"The NHLBI is proud to have supported these physician-scientists, whose discovery science continues to yield important insights that should lead to further improvements in public health," said Gibbons.

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