Nabbing a Nobelist

March 31, 2005


Nobel Prize medallion

Peter C. Agre, a physician and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry, will join Duke Medical Center in July as vice chancellor for science and technology. In this newly created leadership post, Agre will guide the development of Duke's biomedical research enterprise to attract the world's top scientists and students. In addition, he will lead an effort to assess global health-care needs and ensure that Duke's research programs are able to address them.

In his new role, Agre will work closely with chancellor for health affairs Victor Dzau, the deans of the medical and nursing schools, and faculty members to develop strategies for the future of science and opportunities presented by evolving technologies. "After many years as a bench scientist, I've become increasingly interested in contributing to science in a broader way," says Agre. "The work I'm about to begin at Duke will help to shape the next generation of scientists, who will determine whether our nation will continue to lead the world in science and medicine."

Agre earned his M.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 1974. He took a residency in internal medicine at Case Western Reserve University and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1981, he returned to Hopkins, where he progressed through the ranks of the departments of medicine and cell biology. In 1993, he joined the department of biological chemistry as a full professor. Agre was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.

In 2003, he shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry for revealing the molecular basis for the movement of water into and out of cells. His 1992 paper with Johns Hopkins physiologist Bill Guggino, published in the journal Science, documented the discovery of the first water-channel protein, called an aquaporin, which facilitates the movement of water molecules through the cell membrane. Since then, Agre and his colleagues have found that aquaporins are part of the "blood-brain" barrier that regulates what substances enter the brain and are also associated with water transport in skeletal muscles, lungs, and kidneys. Researchers worldwide now study aquaporins and have linked aberrant water transport to many disorders.