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Peter Agre (born January 30, 1949) is an American medical doctor, professor, and molecular biologist who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (which he shared with Roderick MacKinnon) for his discovery of aquaporins.[1] Aquaporins are water-channel proteins that move water molecules through the cell membrane.

Born in Northfield, Minnesota, he received his B.A. from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota and his M.D. in 1974 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He currently serves as the Vice Chancellor for science and technology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, where he guides the development of Duke's biomedical research. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He is also a founding member of Scientists and Engineers for America (SEA), and serves on its Board of Advisors.

Agre is an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA).[2][3] Both of his brothers are also physicians and Eagle Scouts. His son is an Eagle Scout too.[4]

He also enjoys cross-country skiing and has participated in the Vasaloppet ski race.

Dr. Agre is known among science students for his humanity and humility.[5] Perhaps this originates from the grade of "D" Agre received in his first chemistry class, despite having a father who was a chemistry professor.[original research?] Or maybe from the fact his prize-winning research was originally an investigation of the molecular identity of the human blood Rh factor, and his initial discovery of aquaporins was purely serendipitous.[original research?]

He appeared on The Colbert Report, discussing SEA, sound science in politics, and the decline of American knowledge of science, among other topics.

Political activism

Agre defended Thomas C. Butler, a plague researcher from Texas Tech University who voluntarily reported to the university safety office that 60 vials of plague bacteria were missing and had probably been autoclaved. Butler cooperated with FBI agents, who accused him of lying and arrested him. When Butler refused to plead guilty, federal prosecutors charged him with other charges, some of them unrelated, and he was convicted in a jury trial, lost his medical license, and served 2 years in prison.[6]

In addition to being a founding member of Scientists and Engineers for Change, Agre was one of 48 Nobel laureates who signed a letter endorsing Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for president.

Agre criticized many policies of the Bush Administration. "The Bush administration has been a disaster for the environment. They're playing Russian roulette by not signing the Kyoto Accord. If we wait until there's unequivocal proof that this is the cause of global climate change, it will be too late," he said.[7]

Candidacy for 2008 Senate race

On a May 18 interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Dr. Agre said that if he runs for the Senate, he'd like to emphasize health care and environmental issues rather than the Iraq war. He says, "The issues that were important to us at the millennium are still important today." He also feels that the Senate could benefit from the perspective of a medical scientist.[8] Then on August 29 he announced that he will not enter the race for the Senate seat, calculating his chances of success with a late start to obtain the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement against the huge personal cost and the termination of his federally-funded scientific research program and humanitarian service. An advocate for increased representation of science in government, he would not rule out the possibility of seeking public office in the future.[9]

On August 31, 2007, an editorial article written by Dr. Agre appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In it, he formally withdrew himself from consideration for the US Senate race of 2008, and presented a historical review of select Minnesotans who contributed to human advancement, science and medicine. He excluded his own seminal contribution to the understanding of how water moves across our cells—something scientists had debated for a century.

Dr. Agre issued a call for a " century of science". In this editorial he highlighted the absolute paucity of scientists in Congress. He also contemplated the fact that both Germany and China have leaders who are trained research scientists (Germany: Angela Merkel, Ph.D., Physical Chemistry; China: Hu JinTao, Hydraulic Engineer).

There has never been a Nobel Science Prize winner in the U.S. Senate. Nor has there ever been a Nobel Prize winner elected Governor in the United States.

Peter Agre at TEDMED 2011


  1. ^ Agre, Peter. Autobiography. Retrieved on 1 June, 2006.
  2. ^ Lupton, Neil (2005). Scouts-L Youth Group List. Listerv. Retrieved on 1 June, 2006.
  3. ^ Daniel, Douglass K. (2004). Scouter Peter Agre Places a Nobel Prize Alongside His Eagle Award (with photo of both). Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 1 June, 2006.
  4. ^ "Distinguished Eagle Scout Award Profile - Dr. Peter Agre" (Winter 2006). Eagletter Vol:32 (No:3): pp: 8-9. 
  5. ^ McGregor, Steve (2005). Nobel Laureate to Pitch Science as Fun. U. of Texas - Dallas. Retrieved on 1 June, 2006.
  6. ^ Federation of American Scientists, In Support of Thomas C. Butler, statement, September 14, 2006.
  7. ^ Nobel winner says Bush is politicizing science by Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio, October 1, 2004
  8. ^ Nobel Prize-winning scientist considers challenging Coleman. Minnesota Public radio (2007-05-18). Retrieved on 2007-06-04.
  9. ^ Nobel-winning scientist won't run for Senate. Minnesota Public Radio (2007-08-29). Retrieved on 2008-08-30.


  • Johns Hopkins Media Story on his Nobel prize
  • Nobel citation
  • Nobel laureate: Gov't, science research clash post September 11 The Daily Cardinal
  • Webpage at Duke
  • Coverage of October 21, 2005 speech by The Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper

Chemistry Encyclopedia

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