Campus & Community

Alpert awards $100,000 for cholesterol research

3 min read

Nobel Prize-winners Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, will share the Twelfth Annual Warren Alpert Foundation Prize with Akira Endo of Biopharm Research Laboratories, Inc., for work they did after their Nobel-earning discovery of the cholesterol receptor.

Brown, Goldstein, and Endo were selected because their work on cholesterol metabolism, which led to the development of the first statin drug to lower high cholesterol levels, has had a profound effect on the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Each year, the Alpert Prize Scientific Advisory Committee recognizes creative research that has dramatically impacted the human condition.

The trio received the $100,000 award from Warren Alpert, philanthropist, businessman, and sole benefactor of the Warren Alpert Foundation at a ceremony on Friday, May 19, in New York City.

Brown and Goldstein jointly won the 1985 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and other prizes for their work at the fundamental biological level characterizing the receptor for the cholesterol-carrying particles called low density lipoproteins (LDLs). They received the Alpert Foundation Prize for subsequent work and its clinical impact on patients. After discovering the LDL receptor, they went on to track every step of its regulation that can lead to the rise and fall of LDL in the blood. In the early 1970s, Endo reasoned that a chemical inhibitor of the enzyme HMG CoA reductase – the rate-controlling enzyme of cholesterol synthesis – might be useful in inhibiting cholesterol synthesis. He then isolated such compounds from fungi, one of which became the first statin drug, lovastatin.

The Warren Alpert Foundation

Massachusetts native Warren Alpert, chairman of Warren Equities, established the Alpert Prize in 1987 after reading an article about the University of Edinburgh’s Kenneth Murray, who developed a vaccine for hepatitis B. Alpert decided he would like to reward such far-reaching breakthroughs, called Murray to tell him he had won a prize, then set about creating the Foundation. To choose subsequent recipients, he asked Daniel Tosteson, then dean of Harvard Medical School, to convene a panel of experts to select and honor renowned scientists from around the world. Nominations are invited from scientific leaders nationwide.

Previous winners include Sir Kenneth Murray, professor of molecular biology at the University of Edinburgh; J.R. Warren, Royal Perth Hospital; Leo Sachs, Otto Meyerhoff Professor of Biology at the Weizman Institute of Science, Israel; Robert Gallo, professor of medicine, microbiology, and immunology, University of Maryland School of Medicine; and Luc Montagnier, professor and director of the Center for Molecular and Cellular Biology, Queen’s College, University of New York.

In 1950, Alpert, a first-generation American, started his business with, as he tells it, “$1,000 and a used car.” Today, Warren Equities and its subsidiaries – which market petroleum, food and spirits, and engage in transportation and real estate investments – generate approximately $900 million in annual volume and have more than 2,100 employees in 11 states. Forbes listed Warren Equities number 225 on its most recent list of the nation’s largest privately held companies. Alpert is Warren Equities’ sole owner.