Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, has won the 2014 Dickson Prize in Medicine for his pioneering studies demonstrating how the tens of trillions of microbes that live in the gut influence human health. The prize is awarded annually by the University of Pittsburgh to a leading American investigator engaged in innovative, paradigm-shifting biomedical research.
Gordon is the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“Dr. Gordon’s fascinating work has broadened our understanding of obesity in the Western world and of childhood malnutrition in developing countries, and has the potential to stimulate new therapies directed at the human microbiome,” said Arthur S. Levine, MD, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine.
Gordon will be honored Oct. 2, when he delivers the Dickson Prize in Medicine Lecture at the opening plenary session for Pitt’s annual celebration of science and research.
The community of microbes in the gut helps break
down food and synthesize nutrients and vitamins from our diets. Gordon’s research has uncovered intimate links among diet, gut microbes and health, and laid the groundwork for developing new ways to address two major global health challenges: obesity and malnutrition.
His work also may lead to new ways to evaluate the nutritional value of foods, based in part on how the community of microbes in the gut responds to different foods.
Research in his lab is providing a microbial view of human development during a child’s early years, including how the community of microbes in the gut gradually assembles and matures as children grow. This knowledge is shedding new light on the healthy growth of infants and children living in diverse geographic environments and representing different cultural traditions.
Gordon earned his bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College and his medical degree at the University of Chicago. He joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in 1981 and has remained here ever since.
Gordon is the recipient of other honors, including the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of Sciences, the Robert Koch Award and, most recently, the Passano Award. He also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
He has been a research mentor to more than 120 PhD and MD/PhD students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom have gone on to become leaders in the field of human microbial ecology research.