Sleepy Hollow Graduate Wins Nobel Prize in Medicine

Nobel winner said his interest in science began because of his freshman biology teacher.

Dr. Gregg Semenza was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology (Photo: IMAGE CREDIT: WILL KIRK / JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY)

Gregg Semenza, who grew up in Tarrytown and went to Sleepy Hollow High School has been awarded a 2019 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Semenza, the C. Michael Armstrong Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will share the award with William G. Kaelin Jr., professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham & Women’s Hospital Harvard Medical School and Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, the director of clinical research at the Francis Crick Institute in London and director of the Target Discovery Institute at Oxford.

The trio were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. Their work established the genetic mechanisms that allow cells to respond to changes in oxygen levels. The findings have implications for treating a variety of diseases, including cancer, anemia, heart attacks and strokes.

In an interview in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Semenza said his interest in science began because of his freshman biology teacher in high school, Rose Nelson. “My high school biology teacher Dr. Rose Nelson was a real inspiration for me. And she taught us not just the facts of biology, but the excitement of the discoveries and about the scientists who made the discoveries,” said Semenza. “She made the science come alive. She was a tremendous inspiration for me and helped me get my first research experience.”

The award winners’ work “established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function. Their discoveries have also paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases,” according to the Nobel committee. (This story was first reported in the New York Times and other outlets)

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