Gregg L. Semenza
Gregg Leonard Semenza
July 12, 1956
|Education||Harvard University (AB) |
University of Pennsylvania (MD, PhD)
|Known for||Hypoxia-inducible factors|
|Awards||Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2016)|
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2019)
|Institutions||Johns Hopkins School of Medicine|
|Thesis||Molecular genetic analysis of the silent carrier of beta thalassemia (haplotype) (1984)|
|Doctoral advisors||Elias Schwartz|
Gregg Leonard Semenza (born July 12, 1956) is a pediatrician and Professor of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He serves as the director of the vascular program at the Institute for Cell Engineering. He is a 2016 recipient of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. He is known for his discovery of HIF-1, which allows cancer cells to adapt to oxygen-poor environments. He shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for "discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability" with William Kaelin Jr. and Peter J. Ratcliffe.
Semenza was born on July 12, 1956, in Flushing, New York City; he and his four siblings grew up in Westchester County, New York.
Semenza grew up in Westchester County, New York and attended Washington Irving Intermediate School in Tarrytown, New York. He then attended Sleepy Hollow High School where he was a mid-fielder on the soccer team and graduated in 1974. As an undergraduate at Harvard University, he studied medical genetics and mapped genes on chromosome 21. For his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, he sequenced genes linked to the recessive genetic disorder, beta-thalassemia. Semenza subsequently completed his Pediatrics residency at Duke University before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Semenza became the founding director of the Vascular Program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering following his post-doctorate.
While a post-doctorate researcher at Johns Hopkins, Semenza evaluated gene expression in transgenic animals to determine how this affected the production of erythropoietin (EPO), known to be part of the means for the body to react to hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in the blood. Semenza identified the gene sequences that expressed hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) proteins. Semenza's work showed that the HIF proteins consisted of two parts; HIF-1β, a stable base to most conditions, and HIF-1α that deteriorated when nominal oxygen levels were present. HIF-1α was further found essential to the EPO production process, as test subjects modified to be deficient in HIF-1α were found to have malformed blood vessels and decreased EPO levels. These HIF proteins were found across multiple test animals. Semenza further found that HIF-1α overproduction could lead to cancer in other subjects.
Semenza's research overlapped with that of William Kaelin and Peter J. Ratcliffe on determining the mechanism of oxygen detection in cells, and how EPO production is regulated by HIF and other factors. This has led to the development of drugs that help regulate these processes for patients with anaemia and kidney failure.
In 2011 Semenza retracted from Biochemical Journal one paper coauthored with Naoki Mori (and other collaborators), and in 2022 retracted four papers from PNAS according to Retraction Watch. As of 2022, concerns about the integrity of images in 52 articles coauthored by Semenza have been raised on PubPeer. This has led to investigations by the journals where these articles appeared, resulting in many corrections, retractions and expressions of concern.
In 2023, additional papers in PNAS and Oncogene were retracted.
Semenza is married to Laura Kasch-Semenza, whom he had met while at Johns Hopkins, and who currently operates one of the university's genotyping facilities.
Further support for an oxygen-sensing mechanism was provided by the discovery of erythropoietin (EPO), a glycoprotein hormone that stimulates erythrocyte production [...] During the same time period in which Semenza was developing EPO-transgenic mice, Peter Ratcliffe, a physician and kidney specialist, was establishing a laboratory in Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Medicine to study the regulation of EPO