Jeffrey M. Friedman

Friedman Wins Lasker Award

HHMI investigator Jeffrey M. Friedman of The Rockefeller University, as well as Douglas Coleman of The Jackson Laboratory, won the 2010 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the nation’s most prestigious award in basic and clinical research. The scientists were chosen for their research on the hormone leptin, now known to regulate appetite and body weight. In work beginning in the 1960s, Coleman performed experiments suggesting that obese mice are overweight, in part, because they lack a substance that helps them control their appetite. In 1994, Friedman pinpointed the hormone leptin as this appetite-controlling agent. He has gone on to show that leptin not only controls appetite but also regulates energy use by the body. In addition, he has discovered leptin receptors in the brain and found that the hormone can rewire neuronal programs that influence eating behavior. The Lasker Prize carries with it a $25,000 honorarium.

Back to Top

Yuh Nung Jan
and Lily Y. Jan

Wiley Prize Goes to Lily Y. Jan and Yuh Nung Jan

HHMI investigators Lily Y. Jan and Yuh Nung Jan, a husband and wife team who share a lab at the University of California, San Francisco, won the 2011 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences. The Jans study potassium channels in the brain and, in 1987, were the first to determine the DNA sequence of a potassium channel. The flow of potassium ions through channels in nerve cells allows electrical impulses to be sent throughout the body. Potassium ions control the beating of the heart, the contraction of muscles, and the release of insulin, to name only some of their vital functions in the body. Since the initial characterization of the first potassium channel, the Jans have continued to probe how the channels work and how they change in response to signals. The $35,000 Wiley Prize is given annually by the Wiley Foundation.

Back to Top

Elaine Fuchs

Fuchs Wins Albany Medical Center Prize

Elaine Fuchs, an HHMI investigator at Rockefeller University, was one of three scientists awarded the 2011 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research. She shares the $500,000 prize with James A. Thompson of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University. Fuchs studies how skin stem cells differentiate into either skin cells or hair follicles. The skin is an organ that constantly self-renews, and skin stem cells allow this process to happen. Fuchs’ research has implications in how cancers, including skin cancer and head and neck cancer, develop when these stem cell programs become altered. Her lab was also the first to show the role of microRNA molecules in sealing the fate of a skin stem cell.

Back to Top

Susan Lindquist and
Stephen J. Benkovic

Lindquist and Benkovic Presented With National Medals of Science

At a ceremony at the White House, President Obama presented a 2010 National Medal of Science to HHMI investigator Susan Lindquist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stephen J. Benkovic of Pennsylvania State University, who is a member of HHMI’s Scientific Review Board, also received a medal. The National Medal is the nation’s highest scientific honor given by the government. Lindquist was chosen for her research on protein folding and how misfolded proteins can play a role in human disease. She has linked protein conformations to neurodegenerative diseases and studies how different molecules influence the way that a protein folds or the way it changes its conformation. Benkovic, one of the world’s preeminent mechanistic enzymologists, was recognized for his contributions in the field of bioorganic chemistry, which have changed our understanding of how enzymes function and advanced the identification of targets and strategies for drug design.

Back to Top

Ruslan M. Medzhitov

Shaw Prize Given to Medzhitov

The Shaw Prize Foundation awarded Ruslan M. Medzhitov, an HHMI investigator at Yale University, the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine. Sharing the $1 million award with Medzhitov are Jules A. Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg and Bruce A. Beutler of The Scripps Research Institute. The scientists have all contributed to an understanding of innate immunity—the body’s first line of defense against invading pathogens. In the 1990s, Medzhitov discovered a class of receptors—now called Toll-like receptors—that alert T and B cells to pathogens. Since then, he has studied how Toll-like receptors work and what roles they play in the chronic inflammation that contributes to many human diseases, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Back to Top

Top row: David P. Bartel, Harry C. Deitz, Steven E. Jacobsen, David M. Kingsley. Bottom row: J. Andrew McCammon, Michel C. Nussenzweig, Alberto R. Kornblihtt, Luis F. Parada.

HHMI Scientists Join National Academy of Sciences

Six HHMI investigators, one international research scholar, and one member of HHMI's Scientific Review Board have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. The investigators are David P. Bartel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Harry C. Deitz, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Steven E. Jacobsen, University of California, Los Angeles; David M. Kingsley, Stanford University School of Medicine; J. Andrew McCammon, University of California, San Diego; and Michel C. Nussenzweig, The Rockefeller University. The international research scholar is Alberto R. Kornblihtt, University of Buenos Aires. The HHMI Scientific Review Board member is Luis F. Parada, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Back to Top

Top row: Peter Cresswell, Robert B. Darnell, Jennifer A. Doudna. Bottom row: Kevan M. Shokat, Karl Deisseroth, and Sydney Brenner.

Six HHMI Researchers Elected to IOM

Elected this year to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine were HHMI investigators Peter Cresswell, Yale University School of Medicine; Robert B. Darnell, The Rockefeller University; Jennifer A. Doudna, University of California, Berkeley; and Kevan M. Shokat, University of California, San Francisco. Also elected was HHMI early career scientist Karl Deisseroth, Stanford University. Sydney Brenner, a senior fellow at HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, was named a foreign associate of the institute.

Back to Top

Top row: Frederick W. Alt, Jason G. Cyster, Robert B. Darnell, Gideon Dreyfuss. Second row: Yishi Jin, Jeannie T. Lee, Stuart H. Orkin, Li-Huei Tsai. Third row: John D. York, Charles M. Boone, Freda D. Miller, and Barry R. Bloom.

AAAS Names HHMI Scientists Fellows

Nine HHMI investigators, two HHMI international research scholars, and the chair of the K-RITH Scientific Advisory Board were chosen as new fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The investigators are Frederick W. Alt, Children’s Hospital Boston; Jason G. Cyster, University of California, San Francisco; Robert B. Darnell, The Rockefeller University; Gideon Dreyfuss, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Yishi Jin, University of California, San Diego; Jeannie T. Lee, Massachusetts General Hospital; Stuart H. Orkin, Children’s Hospital Boston; Li-Huei Tsai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and John D. York, Duke University. The international research scholars are Charles M. Boone, University of Toronto, and Freda D. Miller, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. The K-RITH board member is Barry R. Bloom, Harvard School of Public Health.

Back to Top

Joanne Chory and
Thomas A. Steitz

Chory and Steitz Elected to Royal Society

HHMI investigators Joanne Chory, the Salk Institute, and Thomas A. Steitz, Yale University, were elected foreign members of the Fellowship of the Royal Society, the world's oldest scientific academy. Chory studies how plants change their growth patterns in response to changing sunlight. Steitz has mapped the structure of the largest subunit of the ribosome and continues to use structural data to understand ribosomes.

Back to Top


Year in Review: Institute News

Year in Review: Institute News

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV broke ground and HHMI welcomed new leadership.

Year in Review: Research Highlights

Year in Review: Research Highlights

Learn about some of the notable discoveries made by HHMI researchers in 2011.

Annual Reflections

Annual Reflections

HHMI President Robert Tjian reflects on the need to balance innovative new approaches with sustained investments.

International Student Research Fellowships Announced

New Support for Global Grads

In its pilot year, HHMI’s International Student Research Fellowship program supported students from 22 countries.

Photo Credits: Jeffrey M. Friedman: The Rockefeller University; Lily Jan and Yuh Nung Jan: Fred Mertz; Elaine Fuchs: Matthew Septimus; Susan Lindquist: Cheryl Senter/AP; Stephen Benkovic: Greg Grieco; Ruslan Medzhitov: Chris Jones; David Bartel: Robert Klein/AP; Harry Dietz: Paul Fetters; Steven Jacobsen: John Hayes/AP; J. Andrew McCammon: Paul Fetters; Michel Nussenzweig: Paul Fetters; Alberto Kornbhlitt: David Rolls; Robert Darnell: Dirk Westphal; Jennifer Doudna: Michael Marsland; Kevan Shokat: George Nikitin; Sydney Brenner: Paul Fetters; Frederick Alt: Jeff Barnett-Winsby; Jason Cyster: Timothy Archibald; Robert Darnell: Dirk Westphal; Gideon Dreyfuss: Paul Fetters; Yishi Jin: Lou Mora; Stuart Orkin: Sam Ogden; John York: Les Todd; Charles Boone: David Rolls; Freda Miller: Robert Faubert; Barry Bloom: Lisa Blalock; Joanne Chory: Jeffrey Brown; Thomas Steitz: Paul Fetters