Professor Raymond Stevens, Director of the iHuman Institute was recently elected to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for his work in structure based drug discovery and structural genomics.
The connection to Norway was his pioneering work in the area of understanding the biochemical basis for the rare childhood disease phenylketonuria (PKU), a disease first discovered in Norway by Dr. Asbjørn Følling in 1934. Children in developed countries are tested at birth for elevated phenylalanine (Phe) levels with the well known “heal prick” test. If a newborn has high levels of Phe, they need to go on a special diet or risk human health. Stevens began working in 1992 with collaborators in Norway on understanding how mutations in the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase lead to PKU and based on those discoveries, to help in the development of therapeutics to treat the disease. His work helped lead to the discovery of Kuvan to treat mild PKU and Peg-Pal, to treat the more severe form of PKU. Both of these therapeutics were developed by BioMarin Pharmaceuticals. He also actively participated in the formation of the National PKU Alliance to help educate those affected by PKU and to fund new PKU research.