The 2012 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine has been granted to Douglas Coleman (retired, Professor Emeritus at The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME, USA) and Jeffrey Friedman (The Rockfeller University, USA) for “revealing the existence of the genes involved in the regulation of appetite and body weight, a discovery crucial to our understanding of human pathologies such as obesity,” as stated by the prize jury.
Jeffrey Friedman cloned the gene encoding leptin (Lep), as the mutation present in the obese mice (ob/ob), based on the ideas and previous work pioneered by Douglas Coleman, who also predicted that the mutant (db/db) mice affected a gene (Lepr) encoding the receptor for this important hormone, produced by adipose cells in the fat and acting in the brain to regulate food intake, energy expenditure and how much fat the body stores. This is yet another award and public recognition to mouse genetics, leading the discovery of genes and their functions, and illustrating how mice help to find out what the homologous human loci do, and their relevance in pathology when they are mutated.
Douglas Coleman and Jeffrey Friedman have been already granted the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, in 2009, and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, in 2010, also jointly in both cases, for their discovery of leptin. Both scientists should be now congratulated, once again, for their excellent scientific work and this new award, truly deserved. Anyone interested to read about the scientific histories behind the discovery of leptin is welcome to read the following articles:
Leading the charge in leptin research: an interview with Jeffrey Friedman.
Friedman J. Dis Model Mech. 2012 Sep;5(5):576-9.
A historical perspective on leptin.
Coleman DL. Nat Med. 2010 Oct;16(10):1097-9.
The 2012 Jury for this BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine comprises a number of eminent scientists including two researchers that are, in addition, ISTT members, namely: Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of the Division of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research (Medical Research Council, UK), acting as the Secretary of this Jury; and Bruce Whitelaw, Head of the Developmental Biology Division at The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh (UK) and Editor-in-Chief of Transgenic Research, the scientific journal to which the International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) is associated.