Agre (pronounced AHG-ray) shares this year's prize with Roderick MacKinnon, a Rockefeller University scientist who determined the spatial structure of cell membrane channels that control passage of salts.
The discovery of the water channel, dubbed "water pore" or aquaporin, ushered in a golden age of biochemical, physiological and genetic studies of these proteins in bacteria, plants and mammals, and fundamental understanding -- at the molecular level -- of malfunctioning channels associated with many diseases of the kidneys, skeletal muscle and other organs. Working from this basic knowledge, scientists are searching for drugs that can specifically target water channel defects.
"It is a remarkable honor to receive a Nobel Prize, because it not only recognizes discoveries, but also their usefulness to the advancement of fundamental science," says Agre, a member of Hopkins' Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "It is amazing and gratifying that the Nobel committee feels our work has accomplished that milestone in just 12 years. That's warp speed in molecular chemistry and it could never have happened as fast as it did without the wonderful resources and collaborators available at Johns Hopkins. This is an honor for the entire Hopkins family."
"This is a great day for the school of medicine and the university at large," says Edward D. Miller, M.D., dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "There are few happier occasions to celebrate at an academic medical center."