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Dr. Peter Agre's early life reads like a broadcast of the popular radio program, " A Prairie Home Companion." The son of a St. Olaf College professor, Agre was raised in a small Minnesota farming community made festive by annual visits from the King of Norway. During the summer, Agre and his brothers worked on their cousin's dairy farm, and as Eagle Scouts they explored the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness at the U.S.-Canada border. During the winter they traversed the landscape on cross-country skis. Agre's family moved to Minneapolis, where Agre attended high school and studied chemistry at Augsburg College (BA 1970).
It was while attending medical school at Johns Hopkins (MD 1974) and working in the laboratory of eminent membrane biologist, Dr. Pedro Cuatrecasas, that Agre discovered a love for biomedical research. Following an Internal Medicine Residency at Case Western Reserve University Hospitals of Cleveland and a Hematology-Oncology Fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Agre returned to Johns Hopkins as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Cell Biology in the laboratory of his medical school roommate, Dr. Vann Bennett.
In 1984, Agre joined the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine faculty and rose through the ranks to professor of biological chemistry and professor of medicine. His research team resided in the laboratory once occupied by Dr. Albert Lehninger. In 1988-89, Agre undertook a sabbatical in the laboratory of Dr. Steven McKnight at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.
After nearly three decades at Johns Hopkins, Agre moved to the Duke University School of Medicine in 2005, where he is Vice Chancellor for Science and Technology, Professor of Cell Biology and Professor of Medicine.
Agre's research led to the first known membrane defects in congenital hemolytic anemias (spherocytosis) and produced the first isolation of the Rh blood group antigens. In 1992, Agre's lab became internationally known for discovering the aquaporins, a family of water channel proteins found throughout nature and responsible for numerous physiological processes in humans-including secretion of spinal fluid, aqueous humor, tears, sweat, and kidney concentration-as well as water transport in lower organisms, microbes and plants. For this work, Agre shared the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Dr. Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller University.
Among his awards, Agre received the 1999 Homer Smith Award from the American Society of Nephrology and the 2005 Karl Landsteiner Award from the American Association of Blood Banks. Agre was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and the Institute of Medicine in 2005. He was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and the American Philosophical Society in 2004. Agre has received honorary doctorates from universities in Denmark, Japan, Norway, Greece, Mexico, and Hungary, as well as his alma mater, Augsburg College.
Agre always devoted major efforts to medical school activities. He served as co-founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine - the first NIH-funded program in molecular medicine. In addition, Agre served as chairman of the Young Investigators' Day Student Research Awards Program at Johns Hopkins. He now chairs the Advisory Board of the MD-PhD Program (Medical Scientist Training Program) at Duke University School of Medicine. Agre also serves his country as chairman of the Committee for Human Rights for the National Academies.
Married since 1975 to Mary Macgill, a preschool teacher, the Agres have four children. While the children were young, Agre served as soccer coach and assistant scoutmaster. Now grown, his daughter, Sara Agre Watson, is administrator for the Institute on Aging at the University of Virginia; his daughter, Claire Agre, is an urban design-landscape architecture student at Harvard Graduate School of Design; his son, Clarke Agre, is a studio art student at the Maryland Institute College of Art; and his daughter, Anne Carlyle Agre, is in 11th grade at Towson High School. Agre retains his passion for wilderness canoe journeys and undertakes an adventure every summer with family members and friends to Hudson's Bay and other remote regions of the Canadian subarctic.
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