KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa, October 10th, 2012 – The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today announced that Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka have been awarded the 2012 Nobel Chemistry Prize for their groundbreaking research on an important family of biological receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Lefkowitz is the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at Duke University, North Carolina, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Kobilka trained and worked with Lefkowitz at Duke, and is now a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Prior to the work of Lefkowitz and Kobilka, it was unclear how cells interacted with their environment and adapted to new situations. Lefkowitz and Kobilka discovered the family of G-protein-coupled cell surface receptors, which react to hormones and transmit signals to the inside of cells. Approximately 40% of all medicines activate or block GPCRs, including drugs such as beta blockers, opioid analgesics and antihistamines. In his recent research Lefkowitz has worked closely with Howard A. Rockman, M.D., also of the Duke University Medical Center, and they have discovered that GPCRs activate more than one signaling pathway inside the cell, which can be selectively activated by so-called “biased ligands”. Some drugs targeting GPCRs elicit specific beneficial or adverse effects through these distinct pathways, opening up the possibility of a whole new generation of GPCR-targeted medicines.
Trevena, Inc., was founded in 2008 based on the work of Lefkowitz and Rockman with the mission of discovering and developing these biased GPCR ligands into better medicines. The company has now advanced two such molecules into clinical testing. “I am delighted that Bob’s extraordinary body of scientific work has been recognized by the Nobel committee with this honor” said Maxine Gowen, Ph.D., Trevena CEO. “The existence of Trevena is just one example of the profound impact that his research has had, and continues to have, on the discovery of new life-saving medicines”.