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Otto Warburg Medal for Alexander Varshavsky

Mosbach, Germany, April 2, 2012 Biochemist and geneticist Alexander Varshavsky (California Institute of Technology, USA), who was born in Moscow and has lived in the USA since 1977, has been awarded the Otto Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM). That medal is considered to be the highest German award for biochemists and molecular biologists.

By means of genetic research carried out with yeast and cell cultures of higher organisms, Alexander Varshavsky has made a decisive contribution to discovering the importance of the ubiquitin-dependent intracellular protein degradation, which plays a central role in many regulatory processes such as, for instance, in the cell cycle, in malignant transformation, in the regulation of inflammation, immune response, and many other biological processes.

Elsevier, one of the world-leading providers of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, and its flagship title Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) are proud to be the exclusive sponsors of the prize money of 25,000 euros.

Alexander Varshavsky was born in Moscow, Russia, where he studied chemistry and obtained his PhD in biochemistry. In 1977 he emigrated to the United States and has worked initially at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1992, his laboratory moved to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

The field of ubiquitin and regulated protein degradation was created In the 1980s, with the Varshavsky laboratory discovering the first and major biological functions of the ubiquitin system, the first degradation signals in short-lived proteins, and cloning the first ubiquitin ligases. Ubiquitylation marks proteins for degradation by the 26S proteasome. Specific malfunctions in the ubiquitin system play major roles in many human diseases, including cancer and neurodegeneration syndromes.

"Alexander Varshavsky's research on ubiquitin-dependent intracellular protein degradation has revolutionised that area of research," Professor Irmgard Sinning, president of GBM says. "We owe to him a series of discoveries with a tremendous impact on cell biology and helping us to better understand and study numerous diseases."

"Let this award be an incentive to all early career scientists", stated David Clark, SVP Life Science Journal Publishing at Elsevier. "Elsevier will continue to support each next generation of scientists with awards and support tools such as in our recent BiggerBrains campaign."


The Laureate

Alexander Varshavsky (born in Moscow on November 8th, 1946) is a Russian-American biochemist and professor at the California Institute of Technology. In 1970 Varshavsky obtained his bachelor's degree in chemistry at Moscow University and in 1973 his PhD in biochemistry at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow. From 1973 until 1976 he worked at the latter institute as a research assistant before he emigrated to the United States in 1977. He at first accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Biology (in 1977), then as an Associate Professor (in 1980) and in 1986 as a Full Professor. In 1992 he went to the California Institute of Technology where he works as Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology.

The Award Ceremony

Professor Alexander Varshavsky has been awarded the Otto Warburg Medal on Friday, 30 March, at 5:15 pm during the Mosbacher Colloquium ( After accepting the medal, he gave a talk about his research.

The Medal

The Otto Warburg Medal has been awarded by the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Gesellschaft fr Biochemie und Molekularbiologie, GBM) since 1963. It honours and encourages pioneering achievements in fundamental biochemical and molecular biological research. Discoveries in these scientific disciplines are a prerequisite for the development of, e. g., novel medicines. The Otto Warburg Medal is regarded as the highest award for biochemists and molecular biologists in Germany. Seven of the prize-winners also received the Nobel prize. The Medal has been endowed with prize money of 25,000 euros since 2007, sponsored exclusively by Elsevier and its flagship title Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA). For further information on the medal visit


Contact: Dr. Anke Lischeid

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