Solomon Snyder Awarded Nation's Richest Medical Prize
For his work on how proteins on cell surfaces enable cells to communicate with each other, Solomon H. Snyder, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has been honored with the 2007 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research. Snyder shares the $500,000 prize with Robert J. Lefkowitz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and Ronald M. Evans of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.
Snyder, winner of the 1978 Lasker Award and numerous other international prizes for his work, along with his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, were the first to identify neurochemical receptors in the brain that control and manage pleasure and pain perception. Specifically, he identified opiate receptors, which are the targets of morphine and codeine, as well as heroin and other drugs of abuse.
Before Snyder’s groundbreaking research, scientists and clinicians knew what opiates did, but no one knew how they achieved their effect. Snyder was the first to understand and identify the binding of these drugs to specific sites in the brain, and he went on to identify receptors for virtually all of the major neurotransmitters.
Snyder’s discoveries of how receptors transmit signals from hormones, drugs and other stimuli to trigger action within the cell have helped give rise to a new and rapid phase of drug development, including many of today’s most commonly used prescription drugs, a new classes of antipsychotic medications to treat schizophrenia, and more effective pain-relieving drugs designed to treat migraine headaches. His most recent research holds promise for advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
The Albany Medical Center Prize is the largest financial prize in medicine in the United States, second only to the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. The annual prize was created to encourage and recognize extraordinary and sustained contributions to improving health care and promoting biomedical research with translational benefits applied to improved patient care. Other winners have included Seymour Benzer of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., Robert S. Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanley N. Cohen of Stanford University, and Herbert W. Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco.
The Prize was founded by Morris “Marty” Silverman, who died in January 2006 at the age of 93. Silverman endowed the Albany Prize in November 2000 with a $50 million gift commitment to Albany Medical Center.