Richard P. Lifton, president of Rockefeller University, a pioneer in using genetics and genomics to identify the basis of disease, will be the 2023 recipient of the Association of American Physicians’ George M. Kober Medal. Lifton, Carson Family Professor and Head of the Human Genetics and Genomics Laboratory, will receive this honor at the AAP Annual Meeting in Chicago in April 2023.
Lifton is best known for discovering the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying hypertension, a common disease that affects more than a billion people and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death. in the world. Previously, the causes of hypertension were poorly understood and deemed too complicated to lend themselves to genetic analysis. Focusing on severe forms of hypertension, his lab has identified mutations in more than a dozen genes that cause this trait and shown that all act by increasing salt reabsorption by the kidney. His research provides the scientific basis for public health recommendations for preventing and treating hypertension by reducing salt and increasing potassium in the diet, and for the pharmacological treatment of this disease.
To conduct such studies, Lifton and his team recruited thousands of patients with traits of interest worldwide, applied methods developed in his lab to sequence all ~20,000 genes in their genomes (called sequencing of the exome), then used analytical tools to search for mutations that alter the protein encoded in individual genes more often than expected by chance. His lab has contributed to the discovery of hundreds of new disease-causing genes, including genes responsible for autism, various forms of cancer, and birth defects such as malformations of the heart, brain, kidneys, skin, and liver. skeletal system. His methodologies have proven ideal for determining the genetic origins of serious disorders that appear sporadically in families and do not follow typical transmission patterns.
Thirty-seven trainees from his lab have held faculty positions at institutions in the United States, including Yale (13), Harvard (2), University of California, San Francisco (2), Columbia, National Institutes of Health, Northwestern , University of California, San Diego, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, and Washington University in St. Louis, and overseas universities in Canada, Germany (2), Israel, Japan (2), Korea (2), in Mexico, Qatar, Singapore and United Kingdom Nine others have made careers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
Established in 1925, the Kober Medal is the AAP’s highest honour, given in recognition of a lifetime of contributions to medical research and scientific mentorship that have had an enormous impact on human health. Former Rockefeller professors to receive this honor include Maclyn McCarty (1989), James A. Shannon (1982), Richard E. Shope (1957), Herbert S. Gasser (1954), Peyton Rous (1953), Oswald T. Avery ( 1945), Donald D. Van Slyke (1942) and Rufus Cole (1938). The list of past honorees also includes Rockefeller Life Trustee Joseph L. Goldstein (2002) and Trustee Emeritus David G. Nathan (2006).
The AAP also awards a Kober Lectureship Fellowship every three years to an AAP member for outstanding contributions to research that have had extraordinary impact on patients. Current faculty member Barry S. Coller received this honor in 2012.
The AAP, an elected society of the nation’s foremost medical scientists, was founded in 1885 by seven physicians, including William Osler and William Henry Welch, who later became the founding chairman of Rockefeller’s science board.