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Jeffrey Friedman to receive Kovalenko Medal

The National Academy of Sciences announced today that Rockefeller University scientist Jeffrey M. Friedman will receive the National Academy of Sciences’ Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal — a medal and prize of $25,000 awarded every three years for important contributions to the medical sciences. Friedman, Marilyn M. Simpson Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will be honored “for the discovery of leptin and its role in the regulation of appetite, energy expenditure, and the molecular mechanisms underlying obesity.”

“By awarding the Kovalenko Medal to Jeff, the National Academy of Sciences recognizes a very important advance in our understanding of how body weight is regulated. This work is not only a beautiful piece of research, but also holds real promise for improving treatments for obesity,” says Paul Nurse, president of The Rockefeller University.

Prior to Friedman’s research, little was known about the components of the biologic system that controls weight, with many scientists questioning the very existence of such a homeostatic system. With the discovery of leptin and Friedman’s subsequent studies, the logic of an entirely new physiologic system has been established with direct implications for the pathophysiology of human obesity.

The award, which will be presented at a ceremony on April 29 during the Academy’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., was established by a gift of Michael S. Kovalenko in memory of his wife, Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko, and has been presented since 1952. In addition to Friedman, five other Rockefeller scientists have received the Kovalenko medal: Peyton Rous (1955), Eugene L. Opie (1959), Rufus Cole (1966), Henry G. Kunkel (1979) and Maclyn McCarty (1988).