Dr. Peter Libby, who discovered role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease, wins AHA’s Research Achievement Award


The American Heart Association has awarded its Research Achievement Award, recognizing a lifetime of extraordinary contributions to cardiovascular research, to Peter Libby, M.D., FAHA, Mallinckrodt Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiovascular specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston.

“Dr. Libby’s pioneering work unraveling the role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease has been nothing short of paradigm changing. His career-long quest to understand how inflammation contributes to atherogenesis substantially deepened our understanding of heart disease, and his ability to translate his findings into the clinic has led to the development of novel new treatment strategies,” said American Heart Association President Robert A. Harrington, M.D., FAHA, who presented the award.

“Dr. Libby’s independent research career included numerous ‘first’ discoveries in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, including some of the mechanisms that lead to heart attack and stroke,” said Dr. Harrington.

The award was presented today at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019 in Philadelphia. The Association’s Scientific Sessions is an annual, premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

“Dr. Libby instigated and helped to lead the first large-scale, randomized clinical trial establishing inflammation as a therapeutic target in cardiovascular disease. His laboratory has focused on investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of atherosclerosis, and he continues to lead investigations that will add to our understanding of risk factors for atherosclerotic events and heart failure, among other important research questions,” the award notes.

Inflammation was not considered a critically important contributor to atherogenesis prior to Dr. Libby’s investigations. “Indeed, the field focused largely on lipid metabolism and proliferation of smooth muscle cells when Dr. Libby began his independent research career,” noted Jonathan D. Smith, professor of molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, in a letter nominating Dr. Libby for the Research Achievement Award.

Over 30 years of research, Dr. Libby’s discoveries included the finding that vascular wall cells can produce, as well as respond to, pro-inflammatory cytokines (especially Interleukin-1) —small proteins that are important in cell signaling.

“This discovery, initially met with considerable skepticism, laid the foundation for the recognition of novel paracrine and autocrine inflammatory cytokine signaling pathways in arterial disease, a mechanism now widely validated,” Smith concluded.

Dr. Libby is a longtime American Heart Association volunteer. He is also a consulting physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He served as Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at BWH from 1998-2014 after heading its Vascular Medicine and Atherosclerosis Unit from 1990-1997. Prior to joining BWH, Dr. Libby was at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston.

Dr. Libby earned his medical degree at the University of California, San Diego, and completed his training in internal medicine and cardiology at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital). He also holds an honorary Master of Arts degree from Harvard University, and honorary doctorates from the Université de Lille, France, and Université Laval in Québec. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his research accomplishments, including the Basic Research Prize of the American Heart Association (2011), the Anitschkow Prize in Atherosclerosis Research of the European Atherosclerosis Society (2013), the Special Award of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (2014) and the Ernst Jung Gold Medal for Medicine( 2016.) He has received a number of other awards including several lifetime achievement awards from various organizations.

Cardiology Magazine