BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A professor at Johns Hopkins Medicine won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Gregg Semenza is a professor of pediatrics. He won the award for his discovery of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), which helps cells cope with low oxygen levels.

And the phone call letting him know was an unexpected early morning phone call for him.

“I wasn’t able to really say anything because I was so shocked,” He said.

“It was certainly not something I was expecting,” Dr. Semenza said.

Just hours later, he was addressing a packed auditorium at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“I really don’t believe that I would’ve accomplished this anywhere else,” He said.

According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, Semenza is studying the role of HIF-1 in cancer, ischemia and chronic lung disease.

“There are a number of disorders where we hope to make an impact,” Dr. Semanza said.

It’s a discovery Dr. Semenza started working on in 1986.

“I’ve been working on it ever since, so it’s been 33 years sin the lab here at Hopkins,” He said.

For those years of hard work, he was honored with one of the  most prestigious awards in science.

“It’s sort of a validation that the work we’re doing is recognized as important by other scientists,” Dr. Semanza added.

Which he hopes brings more people into the field, so that more progress can be made.

“This is a momentous day for all of us at Johns Hopkins, and we are immensely proud,” said Ronald J. Daniels, president of The Johns Hopkins University, in a statement. “Gregg’s passion for discovery and the energy with which he pursues that passion exemplify Johns Hopkins’ commitment to create new knowledge that helps make a better and more humane world. That hunger to always know more is what makes Gregg and our Johns Hopkins faculty so extraordinary.”

Semenza received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, got his M.D./Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and went to Duke University to complete his internship and residency in pediatrics. He moved to Johns Hopkins in 1986 for a postdoctoral fellowship in medical genetics.

Semenza shares the award with William G. Kaelin, Jr., M.D. of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Peter J. Ratcliffe of Oxford University.

He had a lot of people to thank. Two people in particular- his wife and his high school biology teacher.

He is the 29th Nobel Prize winner with ties to Johns Hopkins.

Sean Streicher

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