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09/19/2000 07:00:00

Caltech researcher wins Lasker Award

Alexander Varshavsky, who is Smits Professor of Cell Biology at the California Institute of Technology, has been named a recipient of the 2000 Albert Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research for his groundbreaking work on the ubiquitin system that targets proteins for destruction.

The Lasker Awards are given each year by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation for basic and clinical medical research. This year's award winners were announced Sunday, September 17, in New York City. He shares the Lasker Award with Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion (Israel) Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.

Varshavsky was cited by the foundation "for the discovery and the recognition of the broad significance of the ubiquitin system of regulated protein degradation, a fundamental process that influences vital cellular events, including the cell cycle, malignant transformation, and responses to inflammation and immunity."

"Alex's record of scientific originality is extraordinary," wrote Caltech Biology Division Chair Elliot Meyerowitz earlier this year.

"His earlier work included the invention and first use of several of the most important and most widely used methods of modern molecular genetics. His work from the late 1970s to the present has centered on understanding the cellular regulation of protein stability: in this crucial area he and his laboratory are the world leaders.

"As Alex's work has progressed, it has become evident that control of protein stability is one of the fundamental properties of living cells, and that it plays a role in many cellular processes, and in health and disease," Meyerowitz said.

Varshavsky, a native of Moscow, has been a member of the Caltech biology faculty since 1992. After finishing his doctorate in biochemistry at the Institute of Molecular Biology in the former Soviet Union in 1973, he headed the institute's research group for four years before joining the biology faculty at MIT, where he worked from 1977 to 1992.

Varshavsky is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His other honors include the 1998 Merit Award from the National Institutes of Health, the 1998 Novartis-Drew Award, the 1999 Gairdner International Award from the Gairdner Foundation of Canada, the 2000 Shubitz Prize in Cancer Research from the University of Chicago, the 2000 Sloan Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, and the 2000 Hoppe-Seyler Award from the German Biochemical Society.

Written by Robert Tindol