Horvitz, H. Robert
H. Robert Horvitz (Howard Robert Horivtz), 1947–, American geneticist, b. Chicago, Ill., Ph.D. Harvard, 1974. Horvitz has been a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1978. With Sydney Brenner and John Sulston, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 2002 for discoveries concerning the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death. He built on Brenner's establishment of Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode, as a model organism for genetics research and Sulston's discovery of programmed cell death. Horvitz's contribution was the discovery and characterization of key genes governing cell death, including two that are prerequisites for cell death, another that protects against cell death, and still others that direct elimination of dead cells. He also showed that most genes involved in controlling cell death in C. elegans have human counterparts. The improved understanding of cell death brought about by Horvitz's work has important implications for disease control and treatment.