Bar Harbor, Maine -- Douglas Coleman, Ph.D., a retired Jackson Laboratory scientist whose work established the first clues to a genetic component in obesity, has won two major international science awards: the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine from the BBVA Foundation, based in Bilbao, Spain, and the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine from the Saudi Arabian King Faisal Foundation.
Coleman, 81, will share both prizes with Jeffrey Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., of Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
"I'm delighted and honored to be sharing these awards with Jeff Friedman," Coleman said, adding that receiving news of both awards on Monday was "pretty amazing. It's like a hole in one!"
Coleman conducted his groundbreaking work in the 1950s and 1960s, with Friedman building on Coleman's discoveries from the 1990s to today. Together their work showed that chemical and genetic factors -- not just willpower and eating habits -- are involved in appetite control and obesity, opening possibilities for future pharmaceutical treatments. Their work also demonstrated that fat is not simply a passive energy-storage site, as previously thought, but is an endocrine organ that produces important hormones.
The BBVA Foundation will present its award to the scientists at a ceremony in Spain in June. The Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine includes a 400,000-Euro (about $540,000) cash gift to be shared by the scientists. The Foundation is affiliated with BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), one of Spain's largest banks.
In the announcement for the prestigious King Faisal International Prize in Medicine, the organizers noted that the scientists' work in identifying and characterizing the pathway of the hormone leptin "has had a major impact on our understanding of the biology of obesity," adding that this work provides "more illuminating views of the endocrine system."
At a ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in March, the scientists will each receive a certificate, a gold medal and a cash endowment of $100,000. The King Faisal International Prize in Medicine has been awarded annually since 1981. The King Faisal Foundation was established in 1977 by the late King Faisal ibn Abd Al Aziz, a son of Saudia Arabia's founder.
The BBVN Foundation and King Faisal Foundation awards are the latest of several major scientific prizes that Drs. Coleman and Friedman have won. In October 2009, they received the Shaw Prize, the so-called "Nobel of the East," at a ceremony in Hong Kong. And on Oct. 1, 2010, they accepted the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in New York. Coleman's other honors include election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and the 2005 Gairdner Foundation Award.
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,400. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.
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