Jeffrey M. Friedman
Rockefeller University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2020 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
For the discovery of a new endocrine system through which adipose tissue signals the brain to regulate food intake.
It is the greatest of honors to be a recipient of a Breakthrough Prize, and I am very proud to see my name added to the list of distinguished laureates. Growing up on Long Island attending public schools, I did not know enough to dream of the life I now lead, having the opportunity to follow one’s curiosity, work with brilliant colleagues and meet wonderful people around the world. The focus of my laboratory is to identify the factors that regulate body weight – and the discovery of leptin, the hormone we found, revealed that body weight is controlled by a thermostat-like mechanism. The realization that body weight is stably maintained by a powerful biologic system provides an alternative to the view held by some that obesity is a result of poor lifestyle choices and provides a foundation for developing new treatments, including the use of leptin itself. Like so many in America, my grandparents were immigrants who inhabited a different, even darker world than that of today. They came here to find an opportunity for their family and it makes me happy to think of how proud they would have been if they knew that I would be receiving this prize. And it is my great fortune to share this experience with my wife and daughters.