The American Heart Association presented its Research Achievement Award for 2014 to Shaun R. Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, “for transcendent discoveries of cellular signaling mechanisms that control blood platelet activation and clot formation, findings that have led to a new medical therapy for preventing heart attacks and strokes.”
“Shaun Coughlin is a world leader in cardiovascular research,” said AHA President Elliott Antman, M.D., in presenting the award, a citation and $2,500 honorarium. “Dr. Coughlin has added greatly to our knowledge of how blood elements communicate and connect with one another to orchestrate clotting and other processes,” Antman said. “These contributions heighten prospects for more targeted treatment of cardiovascular disease.”
Coughlin received the prestigious award during opening ceremonies of the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago’s McCormick Place. He is distinguished professor of Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine and director of UCSF’s Cardiovascular Institute. He also is professor of molecular and cellular pharmacology and professor of medicine (cardiology).
In an acclaimed publication in the journal Cell, Coughlin reported finding and cloning a critical receptor for thrombin, the primary initiator of blood clotting. This proved to be a “missing link” in understanding clot formation, Antman said. Coughlin’s laboratory demonstrated how thrombin activates this receptor, protease-activated receptor-1 or PAR1.
“This historic finding of PAR1 and a family of related receptors opened a new area of biology,” AHA’s president said. Coughlin’s work led to development of a PAR1 blocking medicine, vorapaxar, now FDA-approved to reduce clot-related cardiovascular events in patients.