PITTSBURGH – A scientist who has explored how the tens of trillions of microbes that live in the gastrointestinal tract and their genes influence human physiology, metabolism and nutritional status will receive the University of Pittsburgh’s 2014 Dickson Prize in Medicine.
Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D., will accept the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s most prestigious honor during Science 2014—Sustain It!, a showcase of the region’s latest research in science, engineering, medicine and computation that will be held from Oct. 1-3 at Alumni Hall in Oakland. Gordon is the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“Dr. Gordon’s work describes our species as a rich and meaningful ecosystem of interactions between human and microbial components,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine.
“His fascinating work has broadened our understanding of obesity in the western world and malnutrition in developing countries and has the potential to stimulate new therapies directed at the microbiome.”
In the body, microbes, primarily bacteria, but also fungi and archaeons, and the viruses that infect them, outnumber an individual’s human cells by a factor of 10. The number of genes in the body’s indigenous microbial communities far exceeds the number of genes in the human genome.
Most of these microorganisms reside in the gut. Through innovative experimental and computational methods, including studies of twins of different ages, geographic locales and cultural traditions, and the use of germ-free animal models colonized with gut microbial communities (microbiota) harvested from healthy and unhealthy humans, Gordon and his students have provided new insights about how the gut microbiota contribute to obesity and metabolic abnormalities, as well as to childhood undernutrition.
Their interdisciplinary studies have helped create a new field of research, altering ways to define the health benefits of foods being produced or that could be produced in response to the global challenges of population growth and sustainable agriculture.
Also, Gordon’s lab is providing a microbial view of human development, including how functional maturation of the gut microbiota is related to healthy growth of infants and children, and helping to usher in a new era of microbiota-directed therapeutics.
At 11 a.m. Oct. 2, Gordon will deliver the Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture. His talk is titled “A Microbial View of Human Development: The Gut Microbiota and Childhood Undernutrition.”
Gordon earned his Bachelor’s degree in biology at Oberlin College in 1969 and his medical degree at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 1973.
He completed a residency in medicine at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry and molecular biology at the National Institutes of Health, and a fellowship in gastroenterology at Washington University in St. Louis.
Gordon is the recipient of the Danone International Prize for Nutrition, the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of Sciences, the Robert Koch Award, and many other honors. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
In addition to Gordon, other renowned researchers also will deliver plenary lectures at Science 2014. The Mellon Lecture will be given by Stuart Orkin, M.D., of Harvard Medical School; the Hofmann Lecture will be given by Jeannie T. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., also of Harvard Medical School; and the Provost Lecture will be given by Jonathan Rothberg, Ph.D., founder of Ion Torrent Systems, Inc., and a pioneer in the field of next-generation DNA sequencing.
Nominations for the 2015 Dickson Prize in Medicine are now being accepted.