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The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award goes to Coleman and Friedman, discoverers of the appetite hormone
Date:1/29/2013

niversity, Alexander Varshavsky , professor at the California Institute of Technology and 2011 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge laureate in Biomedicine, and Robert E. Braun , Chair of Research at The Jackson Laboratory.

Although the two men have not worked together, their relationship is about as close as one can get in science, for it was Friedman who proved that Coleman's scientific hypotheses were in fact correct.

Hence Coleman's insistence, on hearing of the award, that he was "especially delighted" to be sharing it with Jeffrey Friedman : "We are good friends, and have known each other for many years. One day he called me to say he wanted to work with the mice I was studying, and, several decades later, it was he who found the hormone that I had predicted."

In the late 1960s, Coleman had demonstrated the existence of a still unknown hormone that regulated food intake and body weight. He had done so through his studies of mice carrying a mutation that made them morbidly obese. And his team could tell from the genetic crosses that the defect lay in a single gene. Then Friedman took up the baton in the mid 1980s, determined to find and name the guilty gene. 

"Back then we didn't have the technology we have now to isolate genes," remarked Friedman on the phone, "so I knew it was going to be a hard task and decided to call Coleman to get more background." Eight years later, in 1994, Friedman discovered the gene of the leptin hormone, which functions just as Coleman had anticipated.

Informed of the jury's decision, Friedman said yesterday: "It is a great honor to receive this particular award, which emphasizes such diverse aspects of science. And I couldn't be happier than to share it with Douglas Coleman , who laid the foundations for this work."

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