2014 Dickson Prize Winner
Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD
Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor
Director, Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Dr. Gordon earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Oberlin College in 1969 and his MD at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 1973. He completed a residency in medicine at Barnes Hospital in St Louis, a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry and molecular biology at the NIH, and a fellowship in gastroenterology at Washington University in St. Louis.
Gordon’s research is informed by revolutions in molecular biological approaches and analysis of massive data sets that he helped to create. By exploring the human microbiota and its impact on organismal health and disease, he has introduced a new perspective: Homo sapiens as an ecosystem composed of interacting microbial and human parts.
In the body, microbes, primarily bacteria but also fungi and archaeons, and their viruses, outnumber an individual’s human cells by a factor of 10. The number of genes in our body’s indigenous microbial communities far exceed the number of genes in our human genome. Most of these microorganisms reside in our gut. Through innovative experimental and computational methods, including the study of twins representing different ages, geographic locales and cultural traditions, and the use of germ-free animal models colonized with gut microbial communities (microbiota) harvested from healthy and unhealthy humans, Gordon and his students have provided new insights about how the gut microbiota contributes to obesity and its metabolic abnormalities, as well as childhood undernutrition. Their interdisciplinary studies have helped create a new field of research. Their work is altering ways that we can define the health benefits of foods currently being produced, or that may be produced in the future in response to the global challenges of population growth and sustainable agriculture. The Gordon lab’s work is providing a microbial view of human development, including how functional maturation of the gut microbiota is related to healthy growth of infants and children, and helping to usher in a new era of microbiota-directed therapeutics.
Gordon is the recipient of the Danone International Prize for Nutrition, the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology from the National Academy of Sciences, the Robert Koch Award, and many other honors. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.