Alexander Varshavsky

California Institute of Technology

2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

For discovering critical molecular determinants and biological functions of intracellular protein degradation.


Studies by my laboratory, at first at MIT and later at Caltech, focused on the understanding of how and why cells destroy their own proteins to withstand stress, to grow and divide, to differentiate into new kinds of cells, and to do countless other things that make living organisms so astonishing and fascinating. The field of ubiquitin, a small protein at the center of regulated protein degradation, has been expanding at an amazing pace, and is now one of the largest arenas in biomedical science. Both earlier and recent discoveries illuminate the ubiquitin system and protein degradation from many different angles and continue to foster our ability to tackle human diseases, from cancer, infections and cardiovascular illnesses to neurodegenerative syndromes and aging itself. I feel privileged to have been able to contribute to the birth of this field, and to partake in its later development. The Breakthrough Prize will support, in a major way, our studies
at Caltech. I thank my family and most particularly my wife Vera for the abiding love that uplifts just about everything I do. I am most grateful to the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, 
to its founders, and to its committee for the honor of this award.

Alexander Varshavsky

Ceremony Acceptance Video

Breakthrough Prize Symposium Talks