Robert Lefkowitz

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Robert Lefkowitz
Robert Lefkowitz 2 2012.jpg
Robert Lefkowitz in Stockholm 2012
Born Robert Joseph Lefkowitz
(1943-04-15) April 15, 1943 (age 79)
New York City, New York, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Receptor Biology
Institutions Duke University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Alma mater Columbia University
Known for G protein coupled receptors
Notable awards National Medal of Science (2007)
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2009)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2012)
Spouse Arna Brandel (divorced)
Lynn Tilley (m. 1991)

Robert Joseph Lefkowitz (born April 15, 1943) is an American physician (internalist and cardiologist) and biochemist. He is best known for his groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family G protein-coupled receptors, for which he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Brian Kobilka. He is currently an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as well as a James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at Duke University.

Early life

Lefkowitz was born on April 15, 1943, in The Bronx, New York to Jewish parents Max and Rose Lefkowitz. Their families had immigrated to the United States from Poland in the late 19th century.[1][2]

After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science in 1959,[3] he attended Columbia College from which he received a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry 1962.[4]

He graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1966 with an M.D. Degree. After serving an internship and one year of general medical residency at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, he served as Clinical and Research Associate at the National Institutes of Health from 1968 to 1970.


Upon completing his medical residency and research and clinical training in 1973, he was appointed Associate Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the Duke University Medical Center. In 1977 he was promoted to Professor of Medicine and in 1982 to James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University.[5] He is also a Professor of Biochemistry and a Professor of Chemistry. He has been an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1976 and was an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association from 1973-1976.[5]

Lefkowitz studies receptor biology and signal transduction and is most well known for his detailed characterizations of the sequence, structure and function of the β-adrenergic and related receptors and for the discovery and characterization of the two families of proteins which regulate them, the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) kinases and β-arrestins.

Lefkowitz made a remarkable contribution in the mid-1980s when he and his colleagues cloned the gene first for the β-adrenergic receptor, and then rapidly thereafter, for a total of 8 adrenergic receptors (receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline). This led to the seminal discovery that all GPCRs (which include the β-adrenergic receptor) have a very similar molecular structure. The structure is defined by an amino acid sequence which weaves its way back and forth across the plasma membrane seven times. Today we know that about 1,000 receptors in the human body belong to this same family. The importance of this is that all of these receptors use the same basic mechanisms so that pharmaceutical researchers now understand how to effectively target the largest receptor family in the human body. Today, as many as 30 to 50 percent of all prescription drugs are designed to "fit" like keys into the similarly structured locks of Lefkowitz' receptors—everything from anti-histamines to ulcer drugs to beta blockers that help relieve hypertension, angina and coronary disease.[6] Lefkowitz is among the most highly cited researchers in the fields of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine according to Thomson-ISI.[7]

Personal life

Lefkowitz is married to Lynn (née Tilley). He has five children and six grandchildren. He was previously married to Arna Brandel.[4]


Lefkowitz has received numerous awards including:


  1. Ralph Snyderman (2011-10-03). "Introduction of Robert J. Lefkowitz". Retrieved 2012-10-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Jay Price (2012-12-30). "Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Nobel in hand, still shapes young researchers". News & Observer. Retrieved 2013-01-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Newman, Andy (October 10, 2012). "Another Nobel for Bronx Science, This One in Chemistry". New York Times. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1
  5. 5.0 5.1 "HHMI Investigators - Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Pioneers of cell receptor research share America's top prize in medicine". Albany Medical Center Website.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Highly Cited Research - Research Analytics - Thomson Reuters". 2011-12-31. Retrieved 2012-10-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Biomedicine 2009 Robert J. Lefkowitz". BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "North Carolina scientist wins American Heart Association award for discovering receptors' role as specific targets for drug therapy". American Heart Association. 2009-11-15. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Robert Lefkowitz receiving the National Medal of Science". Duke University. 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> - YouTube video of the ceremony
  11. Duke Medicine News and Communications (2008-09-28). "Duke Medicine Physician-Scientist Receives National Medal of Science". Duke Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Announcement and Citation". The Shaw Prize. 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Albany Medical Center Prize". Albany Medical College. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Fondation Lefoulon Delalande - Historique des prix". Fondation Lefoulon - Delalande. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Grants and Awards Program Fact Sheet" (PDF). Bristol-Myers Squibb. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Robert J. Lefkowitz". Gairdner. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Previous Winners of Society Awards" (PDF). American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Retrieved 2013-01-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Preceded by
Dan Shechtman
Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate
With: Brian Kobilka
Succeeded by
Michael Levitt
Martin Karplus
Arieh Warshel