Ceremony of awarding the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to the Nobel Laureate prof. Brian Kobilka
Nobel Laureate Prof. Brian Kobilka became Doctor Honoris Causa of the Silesian University of Technology. The professor is 54th Honorary Doctor of our University and at the same time the first to be awarded the Nobel Prize. The scientist received the Nobel Prize in 2012 together with Robert Lefkowitz for research on G protein-coupled receptors. These studies have contributed to significant progress in cell biology and medicine.
The ceremony of awarding the title of Doctor Honoris Causa took place on May 30th, 2023, on the professor's birthday. The laureate, together with his wife Tong Sun Kobilka, and the guests who came to the Education and Congress Centre were welcomed by the Rector of the University, prof. Arkadiusz Mężyk. - Today, our University honours with the highest academic dignity a man who devotes himself with great passion and commitment to activities for the development of medicine and health care. An outstanding physician, molecular biologist, researcher and scientific visionary who, thanks to his talent and vast knowledge as well as unwavering faith in success, supported by perseverance and consistency, made a breakthrough discovery. It changed the state of research in medical sciences and moved treatment, pharmacy and pharmacology to a new, hitherto unattainable level. The inclusion of the professor in the group of Honorary Doctors of the Silesian University of Technology is a great honour for our academic community, so far we have not honoured the Nobel Laureate with this dignity - said prof. Arkadiusz Mężyk.
The Rector expressed the hope that the visit of prof. Kobilka in Silesia will be an opportunity to establish cooperation.
- I am convinced that meetings at the Silesian University of Technology and in the cities of the Upper Silesian-Zagłębie Metropolis will be an opportunity to get to know each other even better and to present the potential and ambitions of the Silesian University of Technology and the Silesian scientific community. I am glad that we can exchange experiences, I hope that many new areas of scientific and research cooperation will open up for us, including the one using our modern infrastructure and human resources in the field of biomedical engineering - said the Rector.
The promotion was initiated by Vice-Rector for Science and Development prof. Marek Pawełczyk, who also gave a laudation.
- Professor Kobilka joins the group of outstanding professors and creators from universities and research units - foreign and Polish, who were awarded this honourable title by the Silesian University of Technology. In the past few years, it was awarded to Bertrand Piccard from the Solar Impuls Foundation, Yuri Bobalo from the Lviv Polytechnic and Methin Akay from the University of Houston. The luminary of today's ceremony is a symbolic figure, highly valued in the world for his achievements of great importance for saving people's health and lives, admired for his scientific, innovative, organizational and social activity, and at the same time a very kind person to our University. I am glad that I had the honour of promoting Professor Brian Kobilka at the Silesian University of Technology - said prof. Pawełczyk.
The vice-rector cited the biography of prof. Brian Kobilka, as well as emphasized the great faith and determination of this outstanding scientist.
- Professor Kobilka set himself a research goal, the achievement of which was doubted by the world of science. His research path resembles the history of the greatest scientific discoveries - the achievements of Nobel Prize winners. As the president of Stanford University, Professor John Hennessy, said, Professor Kobilka has devoted his career to discovering the mysteries of life, overcoming various obstacles, believing despite the lack of success in research for many years that a breakthrough will happen someday. Professor Kobilka himself admitted during one of his speeches that a failed experiment is only completely useless if no conclusions are drawn from it - said Prof. Pawełczyk.
In 2012, Professor Brian Kobilka, together with Professor Robert Lefkowitz, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on G protein-coupled receptors. It is estimated that the discovery of prof. Brian Kobilka is used in about 40% of currently produced drugs.
- Professor Kobilka was aware of the importance of his discovery. He decided to get involved with his wife, Tong Sun Kobilka, in its further development in order to make the most of the possibilities offered by it to modern medicine. He founded the biotechnology company ConfometRx, which focuses on the development of GPCR-based drug discovery technologies, and the Kobilka Institute of Innovative Drug Discovery in Hong Kong. He organizes the GPCR Workshop devoted to cooperation between science and industry, supporting the development of therapies for G protein-coupled receptors - said the Vice-Rector.
In the laudation, prof. Pawełczyk also mentioned the charity work of prof. Kobilka. - In the professor's scientific activity and life, the concern for man is particularly visible, not only in the medical sense. He meets scientists and students, inspires, encourages, advises, but does not impose, warns against doubting one's own intuition, encourages non-standard thinking and the use of all opportunities for cooperation. Professor Kobilka carefully observes the world and does not accept the harm that affects people and nations, speaks loudly about it and acts. Many years ago, he worked at the Veterans Hospital, treating seriously ill patients in the intensive care unit. Currently, moved by the war in Ukraine, he often expressed great concern for the suffering of people, looked with admiration and appreciated the help that flows from our nation - emphasized the vice-rector.
Prof. Brian Kobilka founded the Children of the Ukraine War Fund. As part of the international GPCR Workshop 2023 event organized by the Kobileks, he conducted a fundraiser and collected considerable funds, which he has already donated to the Silesian University of Technology for the hospital in Łuck, Ukraine, where children - victims of war are staying.
After Laudation, His Magnificence, the Rector of the Silesian University of Technology, prof. Arkadiusz Mężyk made a ceremonial act of promoting prof. Kobilka by putting on a doctoral sash and presenting a diploma. After the ceremony of conferring the title of Doctor Honoris Causa, Professor Kobilka thanked for granting him this great distinction.
- I want to thank the rector, vice-rector, deans, professors, students and other distinguished guests. It's a great honour for me. When I was asked if I wanted an Honorary Doctorate, I assumed I would be part of the graduation ceremony and just the next person to receive the award. I didn't expect this whole event to be just for me. I've never been so honoured. I would like to especially thank Prof. Marek Pawełczyk for his efforts, his time and patience. I am really very honoured and humbled to accept this honour - said prof. Brian Kobilka, who also presented his scientific research in a short lecture.
The invited guests also spoke during the ceremony. The letter from Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was read out by the Silesian Voivode Jarosław Wieczorek. - Distinguished laureate, on the occasion of conferring the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of the Silesian University of Technology, please accept my most sincere congratulations and words of admiration for your extensive knowledge. On this celebration day, I wish the professor the implementation of even the most ambitious plans and further successes, - wrote the Prime Minister. In turn, the Silesian Voivode emphasized that the admission of prof. Brian Kobilka to the pantheon of outstanding scientists of the Silesian University of Technology is a great honour not only for Gliwice, but for the entire region and province.
Kazimierz Karolczak, chairman of the Upper Silesian and Zagłębie Metropolis, emphasized that this event is of great importance for the cities of the agglomeration. - We want to be a partner supporting the world of science, because we see it as an opportunity for the region. We want to create space for it in our metropolis and support various opportunities so that our students and researchers can host world-class scientists at their faculties, so that they can learn from them and draw inspiration from them. Today, these inspirations are gained thanks to the award of the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to Professor Brian Kobilka, whose discoveries and research work have an impact on improving the comfort of life and increasing the effectiveness of treatment - said Kazimierz Karolczak.
The Mayor of Gliwice, Adam Naumann, emphasized that the cooperation of the Silesian University of Technology with prof. Kobilka raises great hopes. - We have the Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, one of the best, leading cancer treatment centres. This cooperation of the Gliwice university with the professor fills us with optimism, because we know that it will bring excellent results - stressed the Mayor.
Professor Andrzej Więcek - president of the branch of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Katowice, in turn, recalled the appeal of prof. Brian Kobilka, so that doctors also have the opportunity to deal with science. “Unfortunately, the number of medical scientists is getting smaller and smaller. In recent years, it is only a few percent. In his appeals, Professor Kobilka rightly emphasizes that modern medicine, which uses such significant achievements, requires physicians to possess knowledge at the highest level, which can be fully acquired while also being a researcher. This is a very important voice, defining the vision of proper education and work of a modern doctor - said prof. Więcek.
At the end of the ceremony, Prof. Krzysztof Składowski, director of the National Institute of Oncology in Gliwice presented the laureate with a commemorative medal with the image of Maria Składowska-Curie. - Joining the birthday wishes and all the beautiful words that were said here on behalf of the Institute, I wish the professor that, like our compatriot, he will win more once the Nobel Prize, he said.
In addition, many people sent congratulatory letters and wishes for prof. Kobilka, also Minister of Education and Science Przemysław Czarnek.
The Upper Silesian-Zagłębie Metropolis was a partner of the ceremony of awarding the title of DHC of the Silesian University of Technology.