Skip to Main Content

Richard Lifton, MD, PhD

Professor (Adjunct) of Genetics

Contact Information

Richard Lifton, MD, PhD



Richard Lifton is Professor, Adjunct of Genetics. Lifton was the Chair of the Department of Genetics from 1998-2016, Sterling Professor of Genetics and Internal Medicine, Founder and Executive Director of the Yale Center for Genome Analysis and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Yale School of Medicine.He graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College, then received MD and PhD degrees (in Biochemistry) from Stanford University. Following clinical training in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he continued on the faculty at Harvard Medical School before being recruited to Yale in 1993.

Lifton has used human genetics and genomics to identify rare mutations with large effect and elucidate biochemical mechanisms underlying diverse common diseases.In the particular case of hypertension, which affects more than a billion people worldwide and is a principal risk factor for heart attack, stroke and heart failure, together the leading cause of death worldwide, Lifton’s work has identified mutations and biochemical mechanisms that drive blood pressure to the highest and lowest blood pressures compatible with survival, implicating altered renal salt reabsorption in blood pressure variation. This work has also identified a previously unrecognized pathway that orchestrates the balance between salt and potassium homeostasis, providing a mechanism for dietary potassium’s ability to lower blood pressure. These findings provided the scientific basis for reducing salt balance in the prevention and treatment of hypertension, strategies that are used worldwide. Finding mutations underlying extreme outliers of common disease to identify pathways that can manipulated for health benefit has been broadly applied.

In 2009 Lifton’s group developed exome sequencing, selectively sequencing all of the genes in the human genome at very low cost, and demonstrated the utility of the technology by performing the first clinical diagnosis by genome-level sequencing. This technology has been widely used for discovery of hundreds of disease and trait loci. Lifton’s group has used this technology to discover genes underlying diverse cardiovascular, renal, and neoplastic diseases. These include discovery of mutations in chromatin modifiers that underlie congenital heart disease, and discovery that hormone-producing tumors are commonly caused by single somatic mutations.

Lifton is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.He has served on the Governing Councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the Advisory Council to the NIH Director, the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Whitehead Institute of MIT, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Simons Foundation for Autism Research and the Massachusetts General Hospital. He has also served as Co-Chair of the Planning Committee for the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

Lifton has received the highest scientific awards of the American Heart Association, the American Society of Nephrology, the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, the American Society of Hypertension, the International Society of Hypertension, and the International Society of Nephrology.He received the 2008 Wiley Prize for Biomedical Sciences and the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Education & Training

  • PhD
    Stanford University (1986)
  • MD
    Stanford University (1982)
  • BA
    Dartmouth College (1975)


  • YALE-UCL Collaborative
    London, England, United Kingdom 2011
    Dr. Lifton is on the Joint Strategy Committee for the Yale-UCL Collaborative, an alliance which will provide opportunities for high-level scientific research, clinical and educational collaboration across the institutions involved: Yale University, Yale School of Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital and UCL (University College London) and UCL Partners
  • Transatlantic Network on Hypertension-Renal Salt Handling in the Control of Blood Pressure
    Paris, IDF, France 2007
    Drs Hebert and Lifton will join leading researchers in Switzerland, France and Mexico in a transatlantic collaboration aimed at pinpointing the kidney’s role in high blood pressure.

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences2014
MemberAmerican Academy of Arts and Sciences2012
Robert Tigerstedt AwardInternational Society of Hypertension2005
A. N. Richards AwardInternational Society of Nephrology2005
The Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences2005
Doctor of Science (Honorary)Mt. Sinai School of Medicine2005
Distinguished Scientist AwardAmerican Heart Association2005
Richard Bright AwardAmerican Society of Hypertension2002
MemberInstitute of Medicine2002
The Basic Research PrizeAmerican Heart Association2002
Roy O. Greep AwardThe Endocrine Society2002
Pasarow Foundation Award for Medical ResearchPasarow Foundation2001
MemberNational Academy of Sciences2001
Claude Amiel AwardInternational Congress of Nephrology1999
Novartis Award for Hypertension ResearchAmerican Heart Association1999
Homer Smith AwardAmerican Society of Nephrology1998
Outstanding Mentor AwardAmerican Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Research1995, 1996, 1999
Young Investigator AwardInternational Society of Hypertension1994
National Academy of Sciences
MSD International AwardInternational Society of Hypertension

Departments & Organizations