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NIH grantees win 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

For Immediate Release:
October 10, 2012

The 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to National Institutes of Health grantees Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D., of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; and Brian K. Kobilka, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif., for studies of protein receptors that let body cells sense and respond to outside signals.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the researchers had made groundbreaking discoveries on an important family of receptors known as G-protein-coupled receptors.

"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. "NIH is proud to have supported this work, which began as basic science and ultimately led to dramatic medical advances."

NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute began supporting the work of Dr. Lefkowitz in 1974; it has provided almost $15 million in support. Dr. Kobilka has received more than $14 million in support from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences since 1990.

"NINDS is pleased to have supported the basic scientific achievements recognized today by the Nobel Committee," said Story C. Landis, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Dr. Kobilka’s research has shed light on cell-to-cell signaling in the nervous system and has provided exceptional insights into their molecular underpinnings."

"The groundbreaking research by Dr. Lefkowitz and Dr. Kobilka 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 treat such conditions as high blood pressure, angina, and coronary heart disease," said Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "The NHLBI is proud to have supported these researchers, whose work continues to yield promising insights into improving public health."