Richard J. Youle
National Institutes of Health
2021 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
For elucidating a quality control pathway that clears damaged mitochondria and thereby protects against Parkinson’s Disease.
I am fortunate for a career in research and savor puzzling over the unexpected and sharing the excitement of discovery with my mentees. In particular, regarding this Breakthrough Prize, I appreciate my graduate student Derek Narendra for the initial discoveries that inspired outstanding subsequent postdocs and students to further unravel the molecular pathway of mitochondrial quality control. I thank my wife Katherine for her council and nurture and my four children who have always kept me grounded. I am grateful to my mother who encouraged my early love of biology in the forests of Michigan with her elementary school teacher enthusiasm for nature. I thank my PhD advisor Tony Huang for igniting in me the devotion needed to succeed in science and for embracing me with familial camaraderie. Also I owe this prize to the environment of the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health where I could freely follow faint trails and gain fresh perspectives from exploring different fields – from bone marrow transplantation to brain tumors to mitochondria and Parkinson’s disease. The honor of this award drives me to search deeper into the biological mysteries behind neurological disease.