Dr. Lefkowitz was born on April 15, 1943 in New York City. He was an undergraduate at Columbia College from which he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1962. He graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1966 with an M.D. Degree. After serving an internship and one year of general medical residency at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, he served as a Clinical and Research Associate at the National Institutes of Health from 1968 to 1970. From 1970 to 1973 he was at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where he completed his medical residency and research and clinical training in cardiovascular disease. Upon completing this training in 1973, he was appointed Associate Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the Duke University Medical Center. In 1977 he was promoted to Professor of Medicine and in 1982 to James B. Duke Professor of Medicine at Duke University. He is also Professor of Biochemistry. He has been an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1976 and was an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association from 1973-1976.
Lefkowitz studies receptor biology and signal transduction and is most well known for his detailed characterizations of the sequence, structure and function of the β-adrenergic and related receptors and for the discovery and characterization of the two families of proteins which regulate them, the G-protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs) and β-arrestins. Lefkowitz made a remarkable contribution in the mid-1980s when he and his colleagues cloned the gene first for the β-adrenergic receptor, and then rapidly thereafter, for a total of 8 adrenergic receptors (receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline). This led to the seminal discovery that all G protein-coupled receptors (which include the β-adrenergic receptor) have a very similar molecular structure. The structure is defined by an amino acid sequence which weaves its way back and forth across the plasma membrane seven times. Today we know that about 1,000 receptors in the human body belong to this same family. The importance of this is that all of these receptors use the same basic mechanisms so that pharmaceutical researchers now understood how to effectively target the largest receptor family in the human body. Today, as many as 30 to 50 percent of all prescription drugs are designed to "fit" like keys into the similarly structured locks of Lefkowitz' receptors - everything from anti-histamines to ulcer drugs to beta blockers that help relieve hypertension, angina and coronary disease.  Lefkowitz is among the most highly cited researchers in the fields of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine according to Thomson-ISI.
Dr. Lefkowitz has received numerous awards including: