Skip to main content

Biomedical Science Advisory Board member Kaelin wins Nobel Prize

Oct. 7, 2019, 3:04 PM


by Bill Snyder

William Kaelin Jr., MD, a member of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Biomedical Science Advisory Board, has been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

William Kaelin Jr., MD

Kaelin, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, shares the award with Sir Peter Ratcliffe (Oxford University) and Gregg Semenza, MD, PhD, (Johns Hopkins University), for discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

The award, which was announced Oct. 7 by the Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, will be presented Dec. 10 in Stockholm.

Kaelin investigates how mutations in genes known as tumor suppressors can lead to cancer. His studies of a tumor-suppressor gene called VHL helped to motivate the eventual successful clinical testing of VEGF inhibitors for the treatment of kidney cancer.

Moreover, this line of investigation led to new insights into how cells sense and respond to changes in oxygen, and thus has implications for diseases beyond cancer, such as anemia, myocardial infarction and stroke.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and the American College of Physicians, Kaelin has won several major awards for his research, including, with Ratcliffe and Semenza, the 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.

The 16-member Biomedical Science Advisory Board is charged with conducting an annual review of VUMC’s biomedical research enterprise. Its critiques and feedback inform the Medical Center’s strategic approach to advancing research in drug discovery, personalized medicine and all areas related to understanding and improving human health.

Kaelin has been a member of the board since 2010.

“On behalf of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, I want to congratulate Dr. Kaelin for achieving this remarkable honor. We are proud that he is a member of our Biomedical Science Advisory Board,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer for Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Two other members of the Biomedical Science Advisory Board have been honored by the Nobel Assembly:

  • Thomas Cech, PhD, of the University of Colorado-Boulder, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Sidney Altman, PhD, for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA; and
  • Michael Young, PhD, of Rockefeller University, who shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Jeffrey C. Hall, PhD, and Michael Rosbash, PhD, for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice