ASBMB Past Presidents

1960 – Fritz Lipmann




Fritz Albert Lipmann, President of the American Society of Biological Chemists in 1960, was born in Koenigsberg, Germany. He earned an M.D. from the University of Berlin in 1924 and a Ph.D. at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin in 1929. After completing his Ph.D., Lipmann worked in Albert Fischer's laboratory and eventually accompanied him to the Biological Institute of the Carlsberg Foundation in Copenhagen. In 1939, he moved to New York City to work at the Cornell Medical School and then joined the research staff of the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1941. Lipmann eventually became a professor of biological chemistry at Harvard Medical School (1949), where he remained until 1957 when he was appointed a member and professor of the Rockefeller Institute, New York.

Lipmann's research began with a study of the mechanism of pyruvic acid oxidation, which led to his identification of acetyl phosphate as the initial product of pyruvic acid oxidation. In 1941, he wrote a landmark paper, in which he proposed that acetyl phosphate acted as an acetyl donor in the biosynthesis of essential metabolites and that ATP functioned as a generalized energy carrier. In the essay he also introduced the term "energy-rich phosphate bond" and the "squiggle" to denote this distinction (∼P). Lipmann is also known for purifying coenzyme A and showing that it is involved in the acetylation of choline, in the synthesis of citrate and acetoacetate, and in pyruvate and fatty acid metabolism. His work on coenzyme A was recognized in 1953 when he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His work was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).

In addition to receiving the Nobel Prize, Lipmann was awarded many other honors, including the National Medal of Science in 1966. He also received the American Society of European Chemists Carl Neuberg Medal and the American Society for Nutritional Sciences Mead Johnson Award and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1950.

1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2005) Fritz Lipmann and the discovery of coenzyme A. J. Biol. Chem. 280 (21)