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NIH Record

NIH Funds Support Nobel Laureates

The three 1998 Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine -- Drs. Robert Furchgott, Louis Ignarro and Ferid Murad -- all enjoyed, like many of their predecessors, years of NIH grant support for their prizewinning investigations.

The trio were recognized for basic discoveries about nitric oxide, a gas the body uses in many physiological functions ranging from dilating blood vessels (its actions led to the creation of Viagra to treat impotence), to regulating blood pressure, to sending signals to the nervous system.

Furchgott, 82, is distinguished professor of pharmacology at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn. His first NIH grant was in 1958, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and he remains a grantee today, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NIH grant data indicate Furchgott and his collaborators have received some 67 awards, mainly from NHLBI, but also including NIGMS and what is now NINDS.

Ignarro, 57, is at the University of California, Los Angeles. His NIH funding history began in 1967 with an award from NHLBI to study the "biochemical nature of adrenergic receptor sites." He and his team have won a total of 44 awards, again chiefly from NHLBI, though also including what is now NIAMS, and NICHD.

Murad, 62, now at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, first won an NIH grant in 1974 while at the University of Virginia. The 44 awards made since to him and his colleagues at U.Va., Stanford and Abbott Laboratories have come from NIAMS, NIGMS, NHLBI and NIDDK.

In addition to their funding connection to NIH, two of the laureates served on study sections: Ignarro was a member of the pharmacology study section during 1982-1985 and Murad served the same section from 1984 to 1987.

Of the 75 American Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine since 1945, 56, or more than two-thirds, either had worked at or were supported by NIH before winning the prize. Since World War II, 118 scientists worldwide have been awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine. More than half of them (66) had prior support from, or worked at NIH before the honor.

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