Countless top cardiovascular and cerebrovascular scientists throughout the world are linked with the AHA -- as research recipients, council members, journal subscribers or recipients of awards that recognize scientific excellence. Fifteen AHA-funded investigators have won Nobel Prizes, confirming the claim that the AHA is a focal point for excellence in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease research.
Ten investigators received Nobel Prizes for research wholly or partially supported by the AHA:
- Gregg L. Semenza, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University was co-awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of how cells sense and acclimate to oxygen availability, the mechanism for one of life’s most essential adaptive processes. He shares the prize with William G. Kaelin Jr., M.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston and Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, M.D., of the University of Oxford (England) and Francis Crick Institute in London. Their collaborative work established the basis for understanding how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function, paving the way for promising new strategies to fight cardiovascular disease and many other acute and chronic conditions, including anemia and cancer. Dr. Semenza has received five AHA research grants. The Association’s support of his now Nobel Prize winning work on HIF-1 began in 1993.
- Robert Lefkowitz, MD, co-recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors, which allow the body’s cells to sense and respond to internal and external signals, such as flavors, odor, light and danger. Studies of this kind have been instrumental in the development of more effective drugs to treat cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Dr. Lefkowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center, received research funding from the association from 1973 to 1979, and in 2009 won our Research Achievement Award for his transformative discoveries of cellular receptors, seminal findings that have created a cascade of biomedical innovation leading to more effective treatments for human disease.
- Ralph Steinman, MD, recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of dendritic cells and their role in adaptive immunology. In the 1970’s, Steinman discovered the immune system's sentinel dendritic cells and showed that these cells, along with other parts of the immune system, could activate what is known as “adaptive immunity,” to help curb infections and to develop immunologic memory for protection in the future. The basic insights provided by his work have also been critical in the field of cardiac (or organ, including heart and lung) transplantation. Dr. Steinman’s research on dendritic cells and transplant biology was supported via an AHA Established Investigator award from 1980-1985.
- Martin Chalfie, PhD, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, received the British-American Research Fellowship from the American Heart Association in 1977. This fellowship gave U.S. postdocs access to training in Great Britain and British postdocs access to training in the United States. Dr. Chalfie's AHA-funded work used a fluorescence technique. Subsequently, Dr. Chalfie developed (by the mid-90's) green fluorescent protein (GFP), a visualization technique that has had a huge impact on our understanding of cellular structure and function of many cell types, including heart cells.
- Mario Capecchi, PhD, recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received American Heart Association Established Investigator Award funding from 1969-73. Dr. Capecchi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discoveries in gene targeting.
- Peter Agre, MD, recipient of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, received American Heart Association Established Investigator funding from 1987-92. Dr. Agre was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of aquaporins, proteins that govern the movement of water in and out of cells.
- Edwin Krebs, MD, 1992 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received funding from the American Heart Association in 1973. Dr. Krebs received the Nobel Prize, along with Edmond Fischer, Ph.D., for their discovery of how proteins are switched on to perform functions within cells.
- Michael Brown, MD, and Joseph Goldstein, MD, co-recipients of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received American Heart Association funding in 1972 and 1974. Drs. Brown and Goldstein received the Nobel Prize for their research on the role of low-density lipoprotein receptors in controlling blood cholesterol levels. Their research provided new insights into the ways fatty cholesterol enters body cells and why cholesterol levels may become too high.
- Earl Sutherland, MD, 1971 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received a Career Investigatorship from the American Heart Association's national research program in 1967. Dr. Sutherland received the Nobel Prize for identifying cyclic AMP as the intracellular messenger.
Nobel Prize winning researchers who received American Heart Association funding early in their careers:
- Katalin Karikó, PhD, co-recipient of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (along with Drew Weissman, MD, PhD) for seminal studies into messenger RNA (mRNA), a molecule vital to developing the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Karikó received two research grants from the AHA -- a Beginning Grant-in-Aid in 1991 and a Standard Grant-in-Aid in 1993.
- Robert Furchgott, PhD, 1998 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received American Heart Association funding from 1952-54. Dr. Furchgott was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery, along with Louis Ignarro, Ph.D., and Ferid Murad, M.D., Ph.D., of nitric oxide -- a colorless gas that makes blood vessels dilate by relaxing the vessels' smooth muscles.
The American Heart Association also funded several researchers after they received the Nobel Prize:
- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, MD, 1937 Nobel Prize recipient in Physiology or Medicine, received the first American Heart Association-supported research grant in 1948. The $25,000 grant covered equipment and staff salaries. Szent-Gyorgyi received a second American Heart Association grant (for $10,000) in 1950. Both grants enabled him to do fundamental studies on muscle energetics.
- Carl Cori, MD, and Bernardo Houssay, MD, recipients of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (along with Gerty Cori, M.D.), received American Heart Association funding in 1959.
Other Nobel Prize-winning researchers received American Heart Association recognition awards or have other affiliations with our association.
- Roger Tsien, PhD, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, received the American Heart Association's 1995 Basic Research Prize.
- Oliver Smithies, DPhil, recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received the American Heart Association's CIBA Award for Hypertension Research in 1996 and is a longtime member of the association's Council for High Blood Pressure Research.
- Ferid Murad, MD, PhD, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received the American Heart Association's CIBA Award for Hypertension Research in 1988 and Distinguished Scientist designation in 2008.
- Louis Ignarro, PhD, recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received the American Heart Association's Basic Research Prize in 1998.
- Alfred Gilman, MD, PhD, recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received the American Heart Association's Basic Research Prize in 1990.
- Edmond Fischer, PhD, recipient of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, received the American Heart Association's Basic Research Prize in 1987.