Prestigious award goes to Yale nephrologist

Stefan Somlo, M.D., the C. N. H. Long Professor of Medicine (Nephrology), professor of genetics, and chief of the Section of Nephrology, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Homer W. Smith Award from the American Society of Nephrology. The award is presented each year to an individual who has made outstanding contributions which fundamentally affect the science of nephrology.

Somlo’s laboratory studies the human polycystic diseases of the kidney and liver with the goal of achieving understanding of basic mechanisms that will translate to development of specific treatments. Polycystic kidney disease affects over 12 million individuals worldwide and causes progressive disruption of the normal structure and function of the kidney through progressive growth of fluid filled cysts. The most significant clinical consequence to patients is loss of kidney function necessitating renal replacement by dialysis or transplantation. Somlo’s team has discovered four of the genes responsible for these human diseases and studied the functions of the protein products of these genes in cells and animal models. They have discovered the mechanisms by which mutations in these genes result in cyst formation and have defined the way in which the protein products of the work together in maintaining normal kidney structure and function. They hope to translate this understanding into treatments for polycystic kidney and liver diseases resulting from loss of function of these proteins.

The Homer W. Smith award, established in 1964, recognizes one of the major intellectual forces in renal physiology. Smith spent most of his career at New York University, where he developed and refined his concepts of glomerular filtration and tubular absorption and secretion of solutes. His findings and insights form the cornerstones of current understanding of normal and abnormal renal function. His use of comparative approaches to explain normal human physiology stands as a model for students of biology and scientists attempting to unravel the mysteries of normal and disordered renal function.

Other Yale faculty who have received this award include Peter S. Aronson, M.D., FW ’77, the C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine and professor of cellular and molecular physiology; Walter F. Boron, M.D., Ph.D., HS ’80, professor of cellular and molecular physiology; Marilyn Farquhar, Ph.D., who was on the Yale faculty from 1973 to 1990; Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., chair and Sterling Professor of Genetics, professor of medicine (nephrology), and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; the late Steven C. Hebert, M.D., former chair and C.N.H. Long Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and professor of medicine; Emile Boulpaep, M.D., professor of cellular and molecular physiology; Gerhard H. Giebisch, M.D., professor emeritus of and senior research scientist in cellular and molecular physiology; and the late Robert W. Berliner, M.D., professor emeritus of cellular and molecular physiology and a former dean of the medical school.

This article was submitted by Claire M. Bessinger - Van Graan on August 6, 2013.

Stefan Somlo, MD

Five current members of the Yale faculty are recipients of the Homer Smith Award of the American Society of Nephrology: Stefan Somlo (2013), Richard Lifton (1998), Peter Aronson (1994), Emile Boulpaep (1986), and Gerhard Giebisch (1971).