Professor Douglas Coleman was born on October 5, 1931, in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. After completing his elementary and secondary school education in Stratford, he joined McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where he obtained a B.Sc. in Chemistry in 1954, then went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI, U.S.A., where he obtained M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biochemistry in 1956 and 1958, respectively. He served as a Research Assistant at the University of Wisconsin from 1954-1957 and as E.I. Dupont de Nemours Fellow from 1957-1958. He joined the Jackson Laboratory (then known as the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory) in Bar Harbor, ME, where he spent his entire career rising from Associate Staff Scientist In 1958 to Senior Staff Scientist in 1968. He also served as Assistant Director for Research from 1969-1970 and Interim Director from 1975-1976. Upon his retirement in 1991, he was appointed Senior Staff Scientist Emeritus at Jackson. He was also consultant to the National Health Institutes, serving on the Metabolism Study Section from 1972-1974 and was frequently consulted on various other special study sections involving genetic diabetes, obesity and nutrition. He also served as Visiting Professor at the University of Geneva (1979-1980).
After his retirement in 1991, Professor Coleman became actively interested in forest management, land protection and conservation and served as Treasurer (1993-1994) and President (1994-1997) of the Frenchman Bay Conservatory and its Director from 1992-1998. He was also a member of the Planning Board of the Town of Lamoine for ten years (1993-2003). He was U.S. naturalized in 1993.
Professor Coleman’s research interests focus on biochemical genetics, regulation of metabolism, obesity, diabetes and hormone action. He is best known for his studies on the obesity-diabetes syndrome. He discovered the db gene, one of the two genes responsible for the genetic events regulating appetite control. He carried out a series of fundamental experiments with parabiotic mice which demonstrated the hormone-hormone receptor axis of leptin and the leptin receptor long before their discovery. The discoveries of Coleman and Friedman represent one of the most important biological breakthroughs in recent decades.
Professor Coleman received several prestigious awards and honors, including the Claude Bernard Medal by the European Diabetes Foundation in 1977, the Distinguished Alumni Award in Science by McMaster University in 1999, the Gairdner International Award in 2005, the Shaw Prize for Life Sciences and Medicine in 2009 (jointly with Jeffrey M. Friedman), the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (jointly with Jeffrey M. Friedman) and the Outstanding Forest Stewardship Award (Maine Forest Service). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1991, and was awarded Honorary D.Sc. from Louisiana State University in 2005 and Honorary D.Sc. from McMaster University in 2006. He is a member of the American Association of Biological Chemists.
Professor Douglas Leonard Coleman was awarded the prize because the research findings by him and Professor Friedman led to the identification and characterization of the leptin pathway. This seminal discovery has had a major impact on our understanding of the biology of obesity, describing some of the key afferent pathways in body weight regulation active in man. Their fundamental discoveries have also helped in the recognition of more illuminating views of the endocrine system. Because of their major contribution to the field of the genetics of obesity they have been awarded King Faisal International Prize in Medicine for the year 1434H. (2013).