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Kidney researchers celebrate a banner year

Medicine@Yale, 2005 - June July


First Stefan Somlo, M.D., Yale’s chief of nephrology, learned that he would be heading off to Singapore in late June to accept the field’s top award for research in polycystic kidney disease, a life-threatening condition that affects more than 12.5 million people worldwide.

Next Steven C. Hebert, M.D., the chair of physiology, was tapped to receive the A.N. Richards Award at the same June meeting, the World Congress of Nephrology. Then another Yale kidney researcher, Walter Boron, M.D., Ph.D., was selected for the Homer Smith Award from the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). Finally, Hebert was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (see related story, Yale Physiologist Elected to National Academy of Sciences) for his discoveries leading to new drugs that benefit more than 1 million kidney patients worldwide.

Is there something in the water?

“It’s just that Yale has great strength and great depth in this area of science,” says Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., a nephrologist himself, who was attracted to Yale in part by its long tradition in the field dating to the work of John Peters, M.D., during the 1930s.

Somlo, the C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine, and a colleague will share the Lillian Jean Kaplan International Prize for Advancement in the Understanding of Polycystic Kidney Disease for their work in discovering genes that cause polycystic kidney and liver diseases. Somlo and frequent collaborator Gregory G. Germino, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine will receive $50,000 each from the PKD Foundation and the International Society of Nephrology.

National Academy honoree Hebert will receive the A.N. Richards Award from the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) for his fundamental discoveries about how the kidney regulates salt balance. The Richards Award, which carries a $10,000 cash prize, is the ISN’s highest award for basic research. It is presented every two years at the World Congress and is named for Alfred Newton Richards (1876–1966), a member of the Yale College Class of 1897.

Boron is the eighth Yale professor to receive the Homer W. Smith Award, the ASN’s top honor for basic research. The award, which carries a $10,000 cash prize, will be presented at the ASN’s annual meeting in November in Philadelphia.

Boron, a professor of cellular and molecular physiology, has performed pioneering work on the processes regulating intracellular pH, which must be maintained in the neutral range for normal cell function. His contributions include the development of methods to measure and manipulate intracellular pH, the use of these methods to discover several transport processes for acids and bases across cell membranes and the cloning of cDNAs that encode several of these transporters.

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