Jeff Friedman to receive King Faisal and BBVA prizes

Jeffrey M. Friedman, the Marilyn M. Simpson Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, will be the recipient of two international scientific awards announced this week. The King Faisal International Prize in Medicine, from the Saudi Arabian King Faisal Foundation, and the BBVA Frontier of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine from the BBVA Foundation, based in Bilbao, Spain, will both be presented to Friedman this spring.

Both prizes recognize Friedman’s discovery of the leptin pathway and its role in regulating body weight. Together the prizes are worth nearly $750,000; Friedman shares both with Douglas Coleman, emeritus scientist at the Jackson Laboratory.

Jeffrey M. FriedmanFriedman, who is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, researches the molecular mechanisms that regulate food intake and body weight. His studies of obesity gained national attention in December 1994, when Friedman and his colleagues published a landmark paper in the journal Nature, in which they identified a gene in mice and humans called obese (ob) that codes for a hormone he later named leptin.

Friedman graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and, in 1977 at the age of 22, received his M.D. from Albany Medical College of Union University. In 1986 he received his Ph.D. from Rockefeller, working in the lab of James E. Darnell Jr., and was appointed assistant professor. In 1991 he was named head of laboratory, and in 1995 he was promoted to professor. He was appointed the Marilyn M. Simpson Professor in 1999. He has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1986.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, Friedman’s honors include the 2010 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research,  the IPSEN Endocrine Regulation Prize, the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, the Keio Medical Science Prize, the Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal, the Danone International Prize for Nutrition, the Gairdner Foundation International Award and the Passano Foundation Award.

The King Faisal International Prize, among the most prestigious scientific prizes from the Arab world, rewards individuals with exceptional accomplishments who have also made a significant contribution to the body of knowledge belonging to humankind. The winners receive an endowment of $200,000, to be presented at a gala ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in March.

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards seek to recognize and encourage world-class research and artistic creation, prizing contributions of broad impact for their originality and theoretical significance. Worth nearly $450,000, the BBVA prize will be presented June 20 in Madrid.

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