Coris’ lab named historic chemical landmark

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has officially recognized Carl and Gerty Cori by naming their former laboratory a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

The School of Medicine faculty members shared the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1947 for their pioneering insights into sugar metabolism.

“The Coris’ laboratory was the focus for exciting and creative biochemical research for over 30 years,” said David M. Kipnis, M.D., the Distinguished University Professor of Medicine.

“Their lab not only produced the research that resulted in the Nobel Prize awarded to Carl and Gerty Cori, it was also the training center where seven subsequent Nobel Prize-winners studied.”

Kipnis, the former chairman of the Department of Medicine, was a postdoctoral student in the Coris’ lab, which was located on the second floor of the Medical Campus’ South Building.

He noted that the lab “attracted an extraordinary group of young men and women who subsequently went on to become leaders and directors of major centers of both basic and clinical sciences.”

University Archivist Carole Prietto assembled the ACS nomination at the suggestion of Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. Paul Anderson, an associate professor of biomedical communications, librarian Phil Skroska and alumnus Stan Proctor were also instrumental in promoting the Coris’ scientific achievements.

The Coris discovered the process by which the body converts sugar to glycogen and back again.

“This had a tremendous impact on our understanding of diabetes and opened the way for improved techniques to control the disease,” Prietto said.

The glycogen-to-glucose conversion process is now known as the Cori cycle. A key enzyme involved in the process is known as the Cori ester.

For the ACS landmark nomination, Prietto assembled several of the Coris’ papers, pictures of the couple (many taken for publicity after the Nobel Prize was announced) and a summary of the effects of their discoveries.

“One of the first concerns we had when this nomination process started was that the lab wasn’t there anymore, but the chemical landmarks program memorializes discoveries more than it does physical, tangible buildings,” Prietto said.

Gerty Cori was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The Coris shared their prize with Bernardo Houssay, an Argentine scientist who discovered the role of the anterior pituitary gland in the metabolism of sugar.

The ACS will provide a commemorative plaque to designate the new status. The plaque will be installed in the South Building on Sept. 21, when Nobel Prize-winner and Cori colleague Arthur Kornberg will deliver the annual Cori Lecture.

The ACS is also producing a brochure on the Coris’ accomplishments that will be distributed at the lecture and be made available online at

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