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Advances in Health and Medicine

Bert O'Malley: Puzzling Over Proteins


The father of molecular endocrinology and winner of the 2007 National Medal of Science, Bert O’Malley uncovered the molecular events that allow hormones to influence genes to make proteins.

“One gene, one protein” was the mantra in genetic science until the human genome was sequenced and scientists found that more than 120,000 proteins were produced by fewer than 30,000 human genes. Clearly, genes could vary their output, but what controlled this process? O’Malley was the first scientist whose research demonstrated the mechanism at a cellular level. Hormones, O’Malley showed, could control not only the instructions the gene sends for the type of protein, but also when and how much protein is produced.

A Pitt medical school alumnus who now chairs Baylor University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, O’Malley has won several prestigious awards during his career, including the Ernst Schering Prize for international excellence in medicine in 2011.