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Former NIMH Grantee Wins Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Science Update

Former NIMH grantee Brian K. Kobilka, MD, of Stanford University
Stanford University

Former NIMH grantee Brian K. Kobilka, MD, of Stanford University has won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry . He shares the award with Robert J. Lefkowitz of Duke University for explaining the communication system that the human body uses to send messages to cells. The two researchers studied a family of receptors on cells—G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs)—that are critical for the normal function of the brain and heart among many other organs.

Kobilka’s NIMH research grant, which was awarded in 2008, focused on using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to investigate the structure of GPCRs, which are the largest group of targets for discovering new and innovative medications. “Drugs that act on GPCRs could potentially impact many diseases including mental disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other illnesses,” said NIMH’s Michelle Freund, who was the project officer for Kobilka’s grant.

“The research of Drs. Kobilka and Lefkowitz is fundamental to our understanding of the basic biology of diseases and their cures,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel. “We are honored that NIMH and many of our sister institutes at NIH helped support receptor research that will likely change the course of how we treat many illnesses, including many mental disorders.”