Lefkowitz Awarded French Scientific Grand Prize
DURHAM, N.C. -- Robert
Lefkowitz, M.D., a Howard
Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Duke University
Medical Center, has been awarded the 500,000-euro (about
$560,000) Scientific Grand Prize of the Institut de France,
that country's leading association of intellectual academies.
The award is given each year to a "scientist who has made
important contributions to ardiovascular physiology, biology,
Lefkowitz is renowned for his seminal research on
"seven-transmembrane-spanning receptors," a group that
constitutes by far the largest and most ubiquitous family of
receptors in nature. These receptors -- protein switches that
nestle themselves in the cell membrane -- include the beta
adrenergic receptors that mediate the body's fight-or-flight
response, as well as virtually all sensory receptors.
Such receptors respond to external signals such as hormones,
switching on machinery within the cell to respond to those
signals. The beta adrenergic receptors, for example, respond to
the hormone adrenaline, which acts on cells to increase heart
rate, blood pressure, breathing and metabolic energy
Basic research on such receptors in the Lefkowitz laboratory
is contributing to the development of a wide array of drugs to
treat disorders including heart disease, high blood pressure,
asthma and pain.
Said Lefkowitz of the honor, "I am thrilled and rather
awestruck by the size of the award. And I'm cognizant that the
research that led to the award was made possible only by the
fact that I was fortunate enough to lead a talented and
dedicated group of fellows and students over the years.
"I've spent my entire career at Duke and have enjoyed
extraordinary support by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute,"
he said. "That support and the rich intellectual atmosphere at
Duke have inspired my work and that of my colleagues in the
Said Duke Medical School Dean Sandy Williams, M.D., "This
latest in a long line of honors for Bob Lefkowitz is yet
another fitting recognition of the profound impact his research
has had on medical science and human health. What's more, the
extraordinary number of young scientists he has trained has
magnified that effect, to the incalculable benefit of our
society. We are so proud that he has chosen to do his excellent
scientific work at Duke and so inspired by his spirit of basic
Lefkowitz will receive the award -- the Lefoulon Delalande
Foundation Scientific Grand Prize 2003 -- in January 2004 at a
ceremony at the Institut de France in Paris.