Robert Lefkowitz

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Robert Lefkowitz
Robert Lefkowitz 2 2012.jpg
Robert Lefkowitz in Stockholm 2012
Robert Joseph Lefkowitz

(1943-04-15) April 15, 1943 (age 75)
NationalityUnited States
Alma mater Columbia University
Known for G protein coupled receptors
Spouse(s)Arna Brandel (divorced)
Lynn Tilley(m. 1991)
Awards National Medal of Science (2007)
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2009)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2012)
Scientific career
FieldsReceptor Biology
Institutions Duke University
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Notable studentsLee Limbird, Jeffrey Benovic [1]

Robert Joseph Lefkowitz (born April 15, 1943) is an American physician (internist 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.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients, and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines, such as anatomy and physiology, underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

G protein-coupled receptor a large protein family of receptors that detect molecules outside the cell and activate internal signal transduction pathways and cellular responses

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), also known as seven-(pass)-transmembrane domain receptors, 7TM receptors, heptahelical receptors, serpentine receptor, and G protein–linked receptors (GPLR), constitute a large protein family of receptors that detect molecules outside the cell and activate internal signal transduction pathways and, ultimately, cellular responses. Coupling with G proteins, they are called seven-transmembrane receptors because they pass through the cell membrane seven times.

Brian Kobilka medical scientist

Brian Kent Kobilka is an American physiologist and a recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Lefkowitz for discoveries that reveal the workings of G protein-coupled receptors. He is currently a professor in the department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is also a co-founder of ConfometRx, a biotechnology company focusing on G protein-coupled receptors. He was named a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011.


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. [2] [3]

The Bronx Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City, in the U.S. state of New York. It is south of Westchester County; northeast and east of Manhattan, across the Harlem River; and north of Queens, across the East River. Since 1914, the borough has had the same boundaries as Bronx County, the third-most densely populated county in the United States.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. To distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes called New York State.

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science in 1959, [4] he attended Columbia College from which he received a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry 1962. [5]

Bronx High School of Science Specialized high school in New York City

The Bronx High School of Science is a public magnet, specialized high school in Bronx, New York, United States. It is operated by the New York City Department of Education.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

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.

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, colloquially known as P&S and formerly Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is the graduate professional medical school of Columbia University. Located at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan with its affiliate New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Founded in 1767 by Samuel Bard as the medical department of King's College, the College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first medical school in the thirteen colonies and hence, the United States, to award the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Beginning in 1993, P&S also was the first U.S. medical school to hold a white coat ceremony.

National Institutes of Health Medical research organization in the United States

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research. It was founded in the late 1870s and is now part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The majority of NIH facilities are located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH conducts its own scientific research through its Intramural Research Program (IRP) and provides major biomedical research funding to non-NIH research facilities through its Extramural Research Program.


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. [6] 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. [6]

At Duke University, the title of James B. Duke Professor is given to a small number of the faculty with extraordinary records of achievement. At some universities, titles like "distinguished professor", "institute professor", or "regents professor" are counterparts of this title. Two Nobel laureates currently serve as James B. Duke Professors.

Duke University private university in Durham, North Carolina, United States

Duke University is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present-day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco and electric power industrialist James Buchanan Duke established The Duke Endowment and the institution changed its name to honor his deceased father, Washington Duke.

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. [7] Lefkowitz is among the most highly cited researchers in the fields of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine according to Thomson-ISI. [8]

Personal life

Lefkowitz is married to Lynn (née Tilley). He has five children and six grandchildren. He was previously married to Arna Brandel. [5]


Lefkowitz has received numerous awards including:

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  2. Ralph Snyderman (2011-10-03). "Introduction of Robert J. Lefkowitz". Retrieved 2012-10-12.
  3. Jay Price (2012-12-30). "Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Nobel in hand, still shapes young researchers". News & Observer. Archived from the original on 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  4. Newman, Andy (October 10, 2012). "Another Nobel for Bronx Science, This One in Chemistry". New York Times .
  5. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2013-01-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. 1 2 "HHMI Investigators - Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved 2013-01-14.
  7. "Pioneers of cell receptor research share America's top prize in medicine". Albany Medical Center Website.
  8. "Highly Cited Research - Research Analytics - Thomson Reuters". 2011-12-31. Retrieved 2012-10-12.[ permanent dead link ]
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  10. "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.
  11. "Robert Lefkowitz receiving the National Medal of Science". Duke University. 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2013-01-14. - YouTube video of the ceremony
  12. Duke Medicine News and Communications (2008-09-28). "Duke Medicine Physician-Scientist Receives National Medal of Science". Duke Retrieved 2013-01-14.
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Preceded by
Dan Shechtman
Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate
With: Brian Kobilka
Succeeded by
Michael Levitt
Martin Karplus
Arieh Warshel