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Ronald Evans Receives America's Top Prize in Medicine

Ronald Evans, professor in the Salk Institute's Gene Expression Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, has been named a recipient of the 2007 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research – America's top prize in medicine.

Evans was honored for his pioneering discovery of nuclear hormone receptors. He shares this year's award and the $500,000 prize with co-recipients Robert J. Lefkowitz, professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and Solomon H. Snyder of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Each of their groundbreaking discoveries of how receptors transmit signals from hormones, drugs and other stimuli to trigger action within the cell helped give rise to a new and rapid phase of drug development, including many of today's most commonly used prescription drugs.

Evans' seminal discovery occurred in 1985 when he successfully cloned the first nuclear hormone receptor, the human glucocorticoid receptor. This action would soon lead to the finding of a superfamily of nuclear hormone receptors, all with similar molecular and genetic structures.

Interestingly, his superfamily of nearly 50 nuclear receptors can function like a car with forward, neutral and even reverse activities-allowing the development of unique classes of drugs. The impact on pharmaceutical research was dramatic as the industry could now target a whole new generation of therapies.

Today, Evans' nuclear hormone receptors are among the most widely investigated group of pharmaceutical targets in the world. More recently, Evans has identified receptors that are targeted by drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and that play a pivotal role in helping to lower sugar levels and remove cholesterol from the body.

Earlier this decade, Evans identified the receptor to create the first genetically engineered mice with increased endurance for long-distance running. These marathon mice hold out promise for treating children with degenerative muscle disease as well as helping the growing numbers of overweight people burn more calories faster.