Skip to Main Content


Genetics chair receives major new prize

Medicine@Yale, 2014 - Mar Apr


$3 million Breakthrough Prize honors geneticist’s research on hypertension

Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., chair and Sterling Professor of Genetics and professor of medicine, was among six scientists awarded the Life Sciences Prize by the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation on December 12. The prize, which carries an award of $3 million, honors Lifton’s breakthrough work in genetics.

Lifton, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, uses genetic approaches to identify the genes and pathways that contribute to common human diseases, including cancer, and cardiovascular, renal, and bone disease. The prize recognizes his pioneering work in identifying the genetic and biochemical underpinnings of high blood pressure, or hypertension, which affects more than 1 billion people worldwide and is the most prevalent risk factor for heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke.

Lifton has identified mutations in more than 20 genes that cause either extreme hypertension or hypotension (low blood pressure) in people. He pioneered the discovery of human disease through the study of “outliers,” people and families with extreme forms of common diseases. His work has demonstrated the fundamental role of salt reabsorption by the kidney in the regulation of blood pressure, and has provided the scientific rationale for worldwide efforts to prevent hypertension and reduce morbidity and mortality by limiting dietary salt intake, and also for improved therapeutic approaches to hypertension.

“The importance of Rick Lifton’s work on the genetic basis of hypertension cannot be overstated. As a scientist and colleague, Rick represents the very best of Yale School of Medicine. We are delighted that the foundation has chosen to recognize his achievements,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine.

Said Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, biologist and entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki, co-sponsors of the December 12 awards gala, “Scientists should be celebrated as heroes, and we are honored to be part of today’s celebration.”

Lifton earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in biochemistry at Stanford University, and completed a residency in internal medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital before coming to Yale in 1993. Among other honors, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and a past recipient of the Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences.

Founded in 2013 by technology entrepreneurs, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing breakthrough research, celebrating scientists, and generating excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. Its founders include Brin; Wojcicki; Internet entrepreneur Jack Ma; entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner; and Facebook ceo Mark Zuckerberg.