The 2022 Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award: Peter Tontonoz, MD, PhD

Peter Tontonoz, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the 2022 Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award from the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) for his contributions to the understanding of the regulatory pathways of lipid metabolism and their effect on normal physiology and metabolic disease.

Dr. Tontonoz received a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and did graduate research under the mentorship of Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He received his MD and doctoral degrees from Harvard Medical School, completed his residency in Clinical Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center, and a postdoctoral fellowship with Ronald Evans, PhD, at the Salk Institute.

Obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease together constitute a significant morbidity and mortality burden worldwide; dysregulation of lipid metabolism is the connection between these diseases. Dr. Tontonoz’s laboratory focuses on the regulatory pathways that govern cholesterol, fatty acid, and phospholipid metabolism, and has helped to discover fundamental mechanisms by which animals maintain cellular and whole-body lipid homeostasis.

His research has revealed that the lipid-activated nuclear receptors LXR (liver X receptor) and PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor) coordinate lipid metabolism and modulate immunity and inflammation, and his laboratory has demonstrated that the LXR and PPAR signaling pathways play important roles in atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, and immune responses.

His laboratory continues work to identify downstream mechanisms by which LXR, PPARs, and their target genes regulate lipid and immune homeostasis. This has resulted in the identification and characterization of IDOL, the lncRNAs LeXis and MeXis, the phospholipid remodeling enzyme Lpcat3, and, most recently, the Aster family of proteins. Notably, his research has shown that this family of proteins controls how cholesterol moves from the plasma membrane to the endoplasmic reticulum and that these proteins are broadly important for cholesterol use in steroidogenic and metabolic tissues.

Dr. Tontonoz is the Frances and Albert Piansky Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and of Biological Chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is Co-Director of the UCSD/UCLA Diabetes Research Center and Vice Chair for Research in UCLA’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. His work has been supported by the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American Heart Association, and the Leducq Foundation, and he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator from 2000 to 2017. He has mentored over 40 medical and scientific trainees who have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry, and elsewhere.

For his contributions, Dr. Tontonoz has received the Richard E. Weitzman Memorial Award of the Endocrine Society (2005), the Jeffrey M. Hoeg Award for Atherosclerosis Research of the American Heart Association (2010), the Gerald D. Aurbach Award of the Endocrine Society (2014). He was elected to the Association of American Physicians in 2014, the National Academy of Sciences in 2020, and the National Academy of Medicine in 2021. Elected to the ASCI in 2004, Dr. Tontonoz was subsequently elected to serve on the ASCI Council as Councilor, 2008-2011, and as a Council Officer, starting in 2011 and culminating in service as ASCI President from 2013 to 2014.