(1943 - )
Robert Joseph Lefkowitz is an American
Jewish physician and biochemist.
Born on April 15, 1943 in New York City, Lefkowitz graduated from the Bronx High School of Science before
earning his BA in 1962 from Columbia University. He earned his M.D.
from Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons four years
later and did an internship and one year of general medical residency
at the college. Subsequently, Lefkowitz served as a Clinical and Research
Associate at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland from 1968-1970. For the following three years, he completed his medical
residency and research and clinical training in cardiovascular disease
at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1973, Lefkowitz was appointed Associate Professor of Medicine and
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University Medical Center
in Durham, North Carolina. In
1977, he was promoted to Professor of Medicine and in 1982 to James
B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University. From 1973-76 he was
an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association and since
1976 has been an Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Lefkowitz is most well-known for his characterizations of the sequence,
structure, and function of the ß-adrenergic and related receptors
as well as for discovering the two protein families that regulate the
receptors, the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) kinases and ß-arrestins.
In the 1980s, he and his colleagues cloned a gene that led to the discovery
that all GPCRs have very similar molecular structures, which is important
because it enables pharmaceutical researchers to understand how to most
effectively target the largest receptor family in the human body. Today,
up to as much as half of all prescription medicines – from anti-histamines
to ulcer drugs to beta blockers that help relieve hypertension, angina,
and coronary disease – are programmed to fit snugly into the receptors
that Lefkowitz studies. Due to his seminal work in the fields of biology,
biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine, he is
highly-regarded worldwide and one of the most highly cited researchers
in those fields.
Among his many scientific awards are the 1992 Bristol-Myers Squibb Award
for Distinguished Achievement in Cardiovascular Research; a 2007 Albany
Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research; and the 2009
Research Achievement Award from the American Heart Association.
In 2012, Lefkowitz won the Nobel
Prize in Chemistry with fellow American scientist Biran Kobilka.
The pair of researchers were awarded the coveted prize for their “groundbreaking
discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family…of
receptors: G-protein-coupled receptors,” the Nobel Prize website
Photo © The
Nobel Prize website