Image of a cell

Michael S. Brown

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For their historic discovery of the basic mechanisms controlling cholesterol metabolism, opening the way to a new pharmacologic approach to the treatment of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death and disability in the Western world.

Few people can say that childhood hobbies shaped their later careers. As a child, Michael S. Brown’s interest in science would motivate him to get an operating license for amateur radio. He would also develop a passion for writing which would peak as editor-in-chief at the University of Pennsylvania’s school newspaper. Science and writing became driving forces in Brown’s life and would become instrumental to his pursuit of understanding biology on the molecular level.

In 1966, Brown would begin a 30 year partnership with Joseph L. Goldstein. This relationship would prove to become a fruitful and important friendship in his life. In 1985, they were awarded the Nobel Prize for their joint work on how genetics could influence cholesterol. This research would demonstrate how the number of LDL receptors differ in people with a certain genetic defect thus increasing the likelihood of heart disease.

This work into cholesterol would help create the statin class of medications which are consumed by over 20 million people globally. Brown and Goldstein would also discover sterol regulatory element binding proteins which also helped further the understanding of cholesterol and fatty acid regulation and metabolism throughout the body.

By Melissa Ayala