Released: October 9, 2019

CDMRP Funding Recipients Are Nobel Prize Winners

Two of the three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Gregg L. Semenza and Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr., previously received funding from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). They are both pioneers in the field of hypoxia and they share this year’s Nobel Prize with Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe for discovering how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. Their work has implications for treating a variety of diseases, including cancer.

Dr. Semenza, professor of genetics at Johns Hopkins, received a FY11 Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) Impact Award (BC112950) from CDMRP to examine whether inhibiting hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1 and metabolic enzymes make breast cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy.

Dr. Kaelin, professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham & Women’s Hospital Harvard Medical School, received a FY03 Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Research Program Idea Award (TS030008) from CDMRP to examine the mechanisms by which the tumor suppressor gene TSC2 regulates HIF-1. He also received a FY14 BCRP Breakthrough Award Level 1 to identify proteins, siRNA, and chemicals that de-stabilize the estrogen receptor. 

Their award-winning research revealed detailed genetic responses to changing oxygen levels that allow cells to respond to fluctuations, increasing and decreasing how much oxygen they receive. It provided key insights for understanding adaptation to high altitudes and how cancer cells can hijack oxygen to promote growth.

“We recognize the positive impact this research will have on the lives of real people,” said CDMRP director, COL Stephen Dalal. “Our focus is on funding high impact, high risk and high gain projects. Clearly these researchers share that focus and we congratulate them on their award.”

These are the third and fourth Nobel Prize laureates who were CDMRP-funded. Roger Tsien, a pioneer in green fluorescent protein won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; Elizabeth Blackburn, a groundbreaking researcher in telomeres received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Both were BCRP awardees.

Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022