Earl W. Sutherland, Jr.
Sutherland, Gilman, Murad. These names may not be as familiar as Wilson, Smith,
or Jones, but to the Department of Pharmacology, they represent a hallmark of research
The three—Earl W. Sutherland Jr., Ferid Murad, and Alfred Goodman Gilman—each
received the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine. Each had ties to the pharmacology
department at what was then the Western Reserve University (WRU) School of Medicine,
and their lives intersected at different points of their academic and professional
Earl Sutherland Jr.,
served as professor and chair of pharmacology at WRU School of Medicine from 1953
to 1963. There he intensified his work on hormones, emphasizing the role of a substance
known as cyclic AMP as a signaler or "second
messenger" in the production of glucose. He left the university in 1963
bound for Vanderbilt University's
School of Medicine, where he completed his career.
Dr. Sutherland's discovery offers some solace to those whose work areas are constantly
cluttered. Not a "clean desk" person, he would cover the papers that had accumulated
each week with a sheet of white paper and periodically would clear them all away.
In one such cleaning effort, he noticed two unrelated letters from researchers elsewhere
reporting results of their research, and he was able to see the potential connections
to them, which advanced his own work and that of others.
His Nobel Prize, received in 1971, recognized him for "his discoveries concerning
the mechanisms of the action of hormones." He died in 1974.
During his time at WRU, Dr. Sutherland mentored two students,
Ferid Murad and
Alfred G. Gilman, who would later earn their own Nobel Prize.
was pondering medical school when he learned of the M.D./Ph.D. program at WRU, and
particularly the pharmacology program led by Dr. Sutherland, whose son he had known
The medical school's curriculum appealed to Dr. Murad. He came to WRU, where Dr.
Sutherland and Theodore Rall became his research mentors. He was drawn to the program
because "the new experimental integrated organ-system approach to medical education
permitted me to assimilate and integrate information more readily." He earned his
M.D./Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1965.
Dr. Murad has researched "second messengers and hormone signaling," important functions
that help trigger regulating and self-correcting measures in the body. His own work
led him to share the Nobel Prize in 1998 for his discoveries concerning "nitric
oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system."
His career has included work at the National Institutes of Health, at the University
of Virginia and Stanford University, at Abbott Laboratories, and other places in
the industry. Dr. Murad is currently at the
University of Texas Medical School in Houston and is a member of the Case
Western Reserve University Board of Trustees.
Alfred G. Gilman
believed from his youth that he would work in biomedical research. The reputation
and research of Dr. Sutherland and his colleagues, who sought to understand the
function of cyclic AMP, attracted Dr. Gilman to the WRU medical school. He also
liked the university's innovative program that made it possible to work simultaneously
toward a medical degree and a research doctorate. He entered the M.D./Ph.D. program
in 1962 and completed his medical degree and doctorate in pharmacology in 1969.
Dr. Gilman went on to the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences in Bethesda,
Maryland, before moving to the University of Virginia, where he joined former fellow
student, Dr. Murad, and others from Cleveland.
In his research at Virginia, and since 1981 at the
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Dr. Gilman discovered,
characterized, and purified a set of guanine nucleotide-binding regulatory proteins
called G proteins. He describes this work, for which he received the Nobel Prize
in Physiology/Medicine in 1994, as providing "for the first time a firm molecular
basis for understanding certain signal transduction
processes present throughout nature."
Alfred G. Gilman, The Nobel
Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1994
Earl W. Sutherland, Jr., The
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1971
Ferid Murad, The Nobel Prize
in Physiology or Medicine 1998