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Svetlana Mojsov named 2024 recipient of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize

Svetlana Mojsov

Svetlana Mojsov

Svetlana Mojsov, whose research into hormonal triggers for insulin production led to groundbreaking treatments for diabetes and obesity, will receive the 2024 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, The Rockefeller University announced today. This prize is the preeminent international award recognizing outstanding women scientists. Mojsov, a research associate professor at Rockefeller, will be honored at a ceremony on campus on April 17. She will be presented with the award by writer and naturalist Diane Ackerman, author of several New York Times bestsellers, including The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Mojsov’s innovative methods and crucial insights led to the identification of glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1), a gut hormone that causes the pancreas to secrete insulin. Her discoveries are the basis of revolutionary drugs called GLP-1 agonists which have transformed clinical care for diabetes and obesity. Examples of this class of drugs include Ozempic, Victoza, and Wegovy.

She began researching diabetes at Rockefeller, as a student and postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Nobel laureate Bruce Merrifield. There she developed a technique to synthesize glucagon, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. In the 1980s, Mojsov moved to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she started investigating the then-mysterious GLP-1, a peptide resembling a class of insulin-releasing hormones in the intestine called incretins. Based on similarities to glucagon, Mojsov was the first to identify the biologically active sequence of GLP-1, hidden within its full string of 37 amino acids. Her experiments demonstrated that the short version of GLP-1 is indeed produced in the intestine.

Mojsov went on to show, in collaboration with Joel Habener, Gordon Weir, and David Nathan that GLP-1 triggers insulin release in the pancreas, proving that GLP-1 was an incretin. This work led to the therapeutic development of GLP-1.

“The committee was impressed both with Svetlana’s insightfulness in hypothesizing that a peptide within GLP-1 might be the key regulator of insulin and her tenacity in testing that hypothesis,” says Michael W. Young, selection committee chair and the Richard and Jeanne Fisher Professor at Rockefeller. “Of course, her research has also given rise to potent new therapies for the treatment of diabetes and obesity.”

The Pearl Meister Greengard Prize was established by the late Paul Greengard, the Vincent Astor Professor at Rockefeller, and his wife, the sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. Greengard donated his monetary share of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Rockefeller and, in partnership with generous supporters, established an annual award to recognize outstanding women scientists. The prize, which includes a $100,000 honorarium, is named for Greengard’s mother, who died during his birth. Mojsov has pledged to donate the prize money to Rockefeller’s Women & Science Initiative.

Visit this page to register for the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize ceremony and learn more about the award. The event is open to the public, but registration is encouraged to attend.