The 2006 ASCI Award: Shaun R. Coughlin, MD, PhD

Shaun R. Coughlin, MD, PhD, was the 2006 recipient of the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions in the field of signal transduction via thrombin receptors.

Dr. Coughlin received his undergraduate and graduate training from M.I.T. and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. After internship and residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, he moved to the University of California, San Francisco, for cardiology and postdoctoral fellowships and joined the faculty there in 1986. He is currently Professor of Medicine, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, and Director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute.

Dr. Coughlin’s laboratory has made important contributions to the understanding of how thrombin and related proteases regulate the behavior of platelets and other cells. Thrombin, a protease that is generated when blood vessels are damaged, instructs blood cells called platelets to stick together. Platelet aggregates help stop blood loss after wounding, but they also block diseased blood vessels to cause heart attacks and strokes. In 1991, the Coughlin laboratory’s landmark discovery of a thrombin receptor, now known as protease-activated receptor-1, provided the first real understanding of the molecular process by which thrombin, a protease, can regulate the behavior of platelets and other cells like hormones do. The laboratory’s characterization of PAR1 and its subsequent discoveries of other members of the PAR family have led to a greater understanding of how platelets and other cells sense and respond to tissue injury as well as insights into the development of blood vessels and the control of inflammatory signals. These findings have implications for the development of novel therapies against thrombotic diseases, including heart attack and stroke.