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Ryan Hibbs Wins Ochsner Award for Research on Smoking and Disease

May 20, 2024

By Mario Aguilera

Neurobiology Department Professor Ryan Hibbs has been named a winner of the 38th annual Alton Ochsner Award.

Ryan Hibbs

Ryan Hibbs

Erik Jepsen

The award recognizes scientists who have contributed significantly to science’s understanding of the relationship between smoking and disease, along with the development of innovative treatments. Professor Ken Kellar of Georgetown University Medical Center shared the honor with Hibbs.

They will each receive a $7,500 honorarium, an award medallion and a plaque describing their key research findings.

Hibbs, who studies how ion channels enable signaling across membranes, performed detailed crystallographic and electron microscopy studies of nicotine receptors. The research focused on atomic-level molecular structures and revealed previously unappreciated aspects of their function. Combined with Kellar’s studies of nicotine receptors, their biology and regulation, the results point the way for the development of more effective means of treating nicotine addiction and reduction of smoking and smoking-related disease.

“Understanding the function and makeup of nicotine receptors is key to making advancements in the treatment of nicotine addiction,” said Hibbs. “It’s an honor to be selected for this award and to be recognized for advancing efforts to reduce smoking rates in populations throughout the United States.”

The award is named in honor of Alton Ochsner, MD, the co-founder of the Ochsner Clinic (now known as Ochsner Health). In 1939, Ochsner published the first evidence indicating that tobacco smoking was the major cause of lung cancer.

“Ochsner Health is honored to support researchers who make critical advancements in innovative treatments of complex healthcare issues, especially those related to smoking cessation and disease prevention, because we know collaboration is key to improving the health and wellness of our communities,” said Leonardo Seoane, MD, chief academic officer for Ochsner Health. “We commend Drs. Kellar and Hibbs for their critical advancements in understanding the regulation and function of nicotine receptors as they relate to cessation efforts.”

For a list of previous Ochsner Award recipients visit the Ochsner Award page.

― With information from Ochsner Health.