Michael S. Brown, MD, director of the Jonsson Center for Molecular Genetics and the Regental Professor at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical School, will address graduates and their guests at Feinberg’s 165th commencement ceremony on Monday, May 13.
Brown, along with his long-time colleague, Joseph Goldstein, MD, Chairman of the Department of Molecular Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, discovered the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor, which controls cholesterol in blood and in cells, and showed that mutations in this receptor cause Familial Hypercholesterolemia, a disorder that leads to premature heart attack.
Their work laid the groundwork for the development of statins that block cholesterol synthesis, increase LDL receptors, lower blood cholesterol and prevent heart attacks. Their discoveries earned them the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1985 and the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1988, among many other awards.
Brown earned his MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1966 and completed an internship and internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1968. He then became a Clinical Associate at the National Institutes of Health and in 1969, he joined the laboratory of Earl Stadtman at the National Institutes of Health as a postdoctoral fellow. In 1976, Brown was named the Paul J Thomas Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Genetic Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical School.
Brown and Goldstein have shared a laboratory for more than 50 years. The two scientists worked with scientists at Merck to develop the first statin drugs, which cause the liver to produce more LDL receptors, thereby removing more LDL from blood and lowering LDL levels. In 1987, Merck received FDA approval for the first statin drug, which was shown to effectively treat high blood cholesterol, reduce heart attacks and extended survival in adults with coronary heart disease. Today, statins are taken by more than 20 million Americans.
Brown is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he is a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in London. Brown served for 16 years on the Board of Directors of Pfizer and is currently director of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where he chairs the Technology Committee.