Brian Kobilka, UMD’s favorite son and Nobel laureate in chemistry, will be giving a lecture on "structural insights into G protein coupled receptor signaling" this Friday, Sept. 13 at 3:15 p.m. in Chemistry 200 lecture hall. Kobilka graduated from UMD in 1977, double majoring in biology and chemistry while doing a double minor in physics and math. Kobilka was such a unique student that an entirely new program had to be created to accommodate him. UMD professors Robert Carlson and Conrad Firling set up an interdisciplinary program in biology and chemistry, allowing for Kobilka’s double major.
The specially designed program kept Kobilka busy, but not busy enough to keep him from noticing Tong Sun Thian. Kobilka met Tong Sun Thian in one of Firling's classes, and she later became Kobilka’s wife and lifelong research partner.
During his years at the Duke University School of Medicine, Kobilka worked with his wife on G protein receptors, identifying one particular G protein-coupled receptor, called the beta-adrenergic receptor.
“We worked side by side,” Kobilka said of his wife. “We had a couple young kids, so one of us would stay home with (them) while the other was doing experiments.”
In 1989 Kobilka joined the Stanford University School of Medicine where he is currently a professor of medicine, as well as molecular and cellular physiology.
“In the 80s we determined the linear sequence of amino acids,” said Kobilka. “(But) in order to know how something works, you need to see it in three dimensions.”
Kobilka’s team finally did this in 2011 when they captured an image of the receptor for adrenaline at the moment when it becomes activated by a hormone and sends a signal into the cell. About half of all medications act on the receptor Kobilka and his wife have studied, enabling scientists to invent more effective drugs.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz—another researcher at Duke—made groundbreaking discoveries, and decided to award both Kobilka and Lefkowitz the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2012. Committees of the Royal Academy act as the selection board for the Nobel Prize in physics and chemistry.
Following the lecture there will be a reception at 4:30 p.m. in the Swenson Science Building Atrium. Both the lecture and reception are open to the public.
BY JOHN FAHNENSTIEL