Jeffrey M. Friedman is a leader in the biology of the mechanisms that control body weight. In 1994 he completed an investigative "tour de force" that spanned nearly a decade when he discovered the genetic defect in the murine "obese" (ob) mutant. Leptin was the first fat cell-derived hormone to be discovered. Building on the seminal early work of Douglas Coleman (2005 Gairdner International Award Winner) he employed positional cloning approaches to characterize the defective gene well before the advent of today's repositories of gene sequence and sophisticated investigative genetic tools and informative DNA markers. The isolation of the gene rapidly led to his integrative studies which helped define the biological effects of leptin at the whole animal level and the elucidation of a genetic defect in the leptin receptor in the "diabetes" (db) mouse model of obesity. Taken together his work provided the "spark" that has ignited an international frenzy of academic and industry-based research into the study of the causes and treatment options for obesity. The discovery of leptin and newer studies defining the link between leptin released from fat cells and modulation of brain function by leptin have fundamentally advanced our understanding of the control of total body fat content.
Jeffrey M. Friedman, born in Orlando, Florida, received his medical degree from Albany Medical College of Union University and residency training in Internal Medicine at Albany Medical Center Hospital. He received his PhD degree in 1986 from the Rockefeller University and later joined the Faculty, where he is presently Professor and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Most recently, he has been awarded many accolades and awards including membership in the National Academy of Sciences (2001) and the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Metabolic.