BAR HARBOR, Maine — Jackson Laboratory professor emeritus Douglas Coleman, a pioneer in obesity and diabetes research, will share the prestigious Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine with Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University in New York City and of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland. The prize, issued by the Shaw Prize Foundation of Hong Kong, is widely regarded as the “Nobel of the East” and carries a $1 million award.
In the 1970s, Coleman conducted a series of experiments that led him to propose the existence of a “satiety factor” that would account for obesity and type 2 diabetes in certain mice. Friedman later would identify that factor as leptin, a hormone that regulates food intake and body weight. The two scientists’ work showed that chemical and genetic factors — not just willpower and eating habits — are involved in obesity, opening possibilities for future pharmaceutical treatments.
On Tuesday, Jackson Laboratory president and CEO Rick Woychik hailed the scientists’ award.
“Obesity and diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions in America,” he said. “Doug Coleman’s groundbreaking discovery and Jeff Friedman’s subsequent work used the remarkable power of mouse genetics to provide important mechanistic insights into ‘diabesity’ in humans. Their work continues to influence research being conducted today at The Jackson Laboratory and institutions around the world.”
Canadian-born Coleman, a resident of Bar Harbor, came to The Jackson Laboratory in 1957 and retired in 1997. His honors include election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and the 2005 Gairdner Foundation Award.
Established by Chinese movie executive and philanthropist Run Run Shaw, the Shaw Prize honors individuals who have achieved significant breakthroughs in academic and scientific research. The sixth annual prize will be awarded at a ceremony in Hong Kong on Oct. 7.