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David Julius, Nobel Prize in Medicine 2021

David Jay Julius, American biochemist, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Julius was born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn (United States) and graduated in biology in 1977 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1984, he obtained a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Berkeley. He is a professor at the University of California at San Francisco.

He is a member of numerous academies, including the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.

David Julius discovered a sensory neuron, called a nociceptor, that responds to physical or chemical stimuli whose intensity produces pain in humans. With this information it is possible to treat chronic pain, neurogenic inflammatory syndromes or those associated with arthritis, cancer or asthma.

He has received numerous awards, including the Kerr Prize in basic research from the American Pain Society (2006), the Zülch Prize for neural research from the Max Planck Society (2006), the Edward Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience from MIT (2007 ), the Alden Spencer Prize for Neuroscience from Columbia University (2007), the Julius Axelrod Prize from the Society for Neuroscience (2007), and the 2010 Prince of Asturias Award for Scientific and Technical Research.

Nobel Prize work – Photo: Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 4.0

In 2021, David Julius was awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the 2020 Biology and Biomedicine category, together with Ardem Patapoutian “for identifying the receptors that allow us to perceive temperature, pain and pressure.” In the jury’s opinion “temperature, pain and pressure are part of our sense of touch, perhaps the least understood of the five human senses. Julius and Patapoutian have unveiled the molecular and neural basis for thermal and mechanical sensations.”

His grandparents fled anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia. Julius was born in 1955 and grew up in the New York neighborhood of Brighton Beach, which was then home to a large population of Russian Jewish immigrants. The scientist described the neighborhood as “a landing strip for immigrants from Eastern Europe like my grandparents. They fled Tsarist Russia and anti-Semitism in search of a better life.”

On Monday, October 4, 2021, it was announced that he was awarded, along with Ardem Patapoutian, the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

“These groundbreaking discoveries set in motion intense research activities. They led to a rapid increase in our understanding of how our nervous system perceives heat, cold, and mechanical stimuli.” So wrote the Nobel Prize committee in its announcement of the winners.

Source: Jewish Personalities of All Time Facebook Group. Compiled by Raúl Voskoboinik.

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