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Nobel Laureate Peter C. Agre to Join Duke University Medical Center in New Leadership Role


Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. – Peter C. Agre, M.D., winner of the 2003
Prize in Chemistry
, will join Duke University Medical
Center in July 2005 as vice chancellor for science and

In this newly created leadership post, Agre will help guide
the development of Duke's biomedical research enterprise in
ways that will further enhance its efforts to support and
attract the world's top scientists and students. In addition,
Agre will lead an effort to assess health care needs on a
global scale, and ensure that Duke's research programs are
positioned to address those needs.

Agre's appointment was announced by Victor J. Dzau, M.D.,
chancellor for health affairs at Duke and president and CEO of
the Duke University Health System.

"Peter is one of the most accomplished physician-scientists
of our era," said Dzau. "But he is even further distinguished
by his passion to improve the lives of people throughout the
world. His interests span not only science and medicine, but
also human rights and the education of children in math and
science. His world view is perfectly matched to Duke's
aspirations, and we are delighted that he will help us shape
the future of this institution and medicine worldwide."

In his role as vice chancellor for science and technology,
Agre will work closely with the chancellor for health affairs,
the deans of the medical and nursing schools, and with the
faculty to develop strategies for the future direction of
science as well as the opportunities that will be enabled by
rapidly evolving technologies.

"After many years as a bench scientist, I've become
increasingly interested in contributing to science in a broader
way," said Agre. "The work I'm about to begin at Duke will help
to shape the next generation of scientists, who will determine
whether our nation will continue to lead the world in science
and medicine."

Agre, 55, received his medical doctorate from Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine in 1974. He took a residency in
internal medicine at Case Western Reserve University and a
fellowship in hematology/oncology at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1981, he returned to Hopkins where
he progressed through the ranks of the departments of medicine
and cell biology. In 1993 he joined the department of
biological chemistry as a full professor. Agre was elected to
membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and to
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.

In 2003, he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for
revealing the molecular basis for the movement of water into
and out of cells. His 1992 paper in the journal Science, with
Johns Hopkins physiologist Bill Guggino, Ph.D., documented the
discovery of the first water-channel protein – called an
aquaporin – which facilitates the movement of water molecules
into and out of cells through the cell membrane. Since then,
Agre and his colleagues have found aquaporins to be part of the
blood-brain barrier and also associated with water transport in
skeletal muscle, lung and kidney. Researchers worldwide now
study aquaporins, and have linked aberrant water transport to
many human disorders.

In addition to his scientific talents, Dzau said he sought
Agre's expertise as a champion and critic of scientific and
medical issues that have important societal implications. Dzau
said that he asked Agre to expand those efforts as part of his
role at Duke. Making advocacy an institutional priority, he
said, is needed to fill a void that exists nationally.

"Too often, academic medical centers and universities have
been silent on issues that are important to the future of our
society," said Dzau. "As leaders of these institutions, I think
we have an obligation to express our views and step into the
public debate on important issues. I have asked Peter to use
his position at Duke to do precisely that.

"Peter's broad interests, ranging from scientific to
humanitarian, will make him an invaluable resource to the
entire Duke University community," said Dzau. "President
Brodhead and I look forward to having Peter serving as a senior
adviser to the provost, the deans and students across the

Agre's dual role – as an architect who will help to shape
Duke's medical research enterprise, and as public figure who
will serve as the institution's spokesperson on key scientific
issues – will be unique among academic medical centers in the
United States, said Dzau.

One of the issues Agre says he will address early on is the
urgent need to improve science and mathematics education in the
nation's primary and secondary schools.

"In the 20th century, America led the world in producing
important advances in medicine," said Agre. "We spawned new
industries, such as biotechnology. But today, the state of
science and math education in our public schools is in crisis,
and it poses a threat to America's leadership in science. The
need to reinvigorate science and math education must become a
national priority."

Agre will begin a six-month sabbatical at Duke immediately
during which time he will further refine his vice vhancellor
duties as well as define how he will contribute to science
programs across the campus and in the community. He will
formally assume his duties as vice chancellor for science and
technology at Duke University Medical Center on July 1,

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