Friday, October 9, 2009

MGH Nobel Prize Laureates throughout history

Widely considered the most prestigious award in the world, the Nobel Prize is named for Alfred Nobel, a Swedish intellectual and innovator, whose invention of dynamite in 1866 was one of his most notable accomplishments. The foundations for the prize were laid in 1895 through his will.

"The whole of my remaining realizable estate ... shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind," wrote Nobel.

Nobel also specified the six categories in which the prize would be given and that they were to be given to any worthy recipient, regardless of nationality. Physiology or Medicine is one of the six categories. Each year, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine sends nomination forms to a group of approximately 3,000 people, such as university professors and past Nobel Laureates. Forms are submitted and then reviewed by the committee, which consults with experts on the work of each candidate. The committee passes recommendations on to the Nobel Assembly, a 50-person group from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm that selects the final recipient or recipients.

Since 1901, nearly 200 individuals around the world have been granted a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Of this group, nine, including one of this year's recipients, Jack W. Szostak, PhD, either trained or worked at the MGH.

1934 George R. Minot, MD
Minot trained at the MGH and shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1934 with William P. Murphy, MD, of Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and George H. Whipple, MD, of the University of Rochester. The trio was honored for discovering a life-saving treatment for pernicious anemia. Although Minot conducted much of his award-winning work while director of the then-Boston City Hospital, he said the idea that something in food might help patients with pernicious anemia came to him as early as 1912 while serving as a house officer at the MGH.

1947 Carl F. Cori, PhD
Cori was already a Nobel Laureate when he came to the MGH in 1966 to head the hospital's Enzyme Research Laboratory. Cori, his wife, Gerty T. Cori, MD, and an Argentine scientist named Bernardo A. Houssay, MD, jointly received the 1947 award in Physiology or Medicine for shedding new light on one of the body's most important basic mechanisms: how glycogen, a type of starch, is converted into blood sugar. Cori joined the MGH after retiring as chief of the Department of Chemistry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

1953 Fritz A. Lipmann, MD, PhD
Lipmann was director of the MGH's Biochemical Research Laboratory in the mid-1940s when he isolated a substance called coenzyme A, which aids the body in converting fatty acids, steroids, amino acids and hemoglobins into energy. The work made possible a dramatic expansion of metabolic chemistry. Lipmann shared the 1953 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir Hans Krebs, MD, of Sheffield, England.

1972 Gerald M. Edelman, MD, PhD
A former MGH intern, Edelman, of Rockefeller University in New York, earned the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Rodney R. Porter, PhD, of the University of Oxford in England. They made discoveries related to chemical structures in antibodies, the body's defense against bacteria and harmful viruses.

1985 Michael S. Brown, MD, and Joseph L. Goldstein, MD
Brown and Goldstein, who became friends while interns at the MGH in 1966, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1985. Their joint studies provided important new discoveries about cholesterol and its effects on arteries supplying blood to the heart. At the time of the award, both men held appointments at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas.

1989 J. Michael Bishop, MD
Bishop and Harold E. Varmus, MD, then co-workers at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, were honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989 for finding that normal cells contain genes capable of becoming cancer genes. A 1962 graduate of Harvard Medical School, Bishop worked as a research fellow in the Department of Pathology at the MGH.

1998 Ferid Murad, MD, PhD
Murad walked the halls of the MGH as a medical resident from 1965 to 1967. While at the University of Texas Medical School he -- along with colleagues Robert Furchgott, PhD, of SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn, and Louis Ignarro, PhD, of the University of California School of Medicine in Los Angeles -- received the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work with nitric oxide as a signaling molecule.