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.

Richard J. Youle