Cal professor Randy Schekman wins Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Schekman became the 22nd Nobel Laureate in school history and the very first for winning the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

UPDATED: Prof. Randy Schekman's Nobel morning, definitely worth watching:


Coming soon to the Memorial Stadium at halftime, it will be Molecular and Cell Biology professor Randy Schekman, to be recognized for winning the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Professor Schekman, faculty member since 1976, shares the award with James Rothman of Yale and Thomas Sudhof of Leland Stanford Junior University. They are awarded the prize for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.

From the official UC Berkeley release:

Discoveries by Schekman about how yeast secrete proteins led directly to the success of the biotechnology industry, which was able to coax yeast to release useful protein drugs, such as insulin and human growth hormone. The three scientists’ research on protein transport in cells, and how cells control this trafficking to secrete hormones and enzymes, illuminated the workings of a fundamental process in cell physiology.

Schekman chose to study the protein secretion in yeast back in the late '70s when it may have been seen by some as foolish. From his work, a whole biotechnology industry has blossomed in the '80s and '90s.

[H]e mapped out the machinery by which yeast cells sort, package and deliver proteins via membrane bubbles to the cell surface, secreting proteins important in yeast communication and mating. Yeast also use the process to deliver receptors to the surface, the cells’ main way of controlling activities such as the intake of nutrients like glucose.

From these methods, diseases such as forms of diabetes, hemophilia, and maybe even Alzheimer's may be understood and eventually cured.

You can hear about Professor Schekman talking about protein secretion:

on using biochemistry to study vesicles:

and the last part of his lecture:


From his official bio (in NobelPrize.org):

Randy W. Schekman was born 1948 in St Paul, Minnesota, USA, studied at the University of California in Los Angeles and at Stanford University, where he obtained his PhD in 1974 under the supervision of Arthur Kornberg (Nobel Prize 1959) and in the same department that Rothman joined a few years later. In 1976, Schekman joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, where he is currently Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell biology. Schekman is also an investigator of Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Cal is lucky that Professor Schekman was escape the South Bay and start a new Nobel Prize lineage in Berkeley (your odds of winning the a Nobel Prize is significantly correlated to whether your advisor has one). Out of all the Nobel Prizes awarded to Cal faculty, this was the very first one in the field of Physiology and Medicine. Schekman is the 22nd overall Nobel Laureate in the storied Cal history and the first since Saul Perlmutter received it for physics in 2011 for discovering the accelerating universe (and consequently "dark energy").

Given what I remember of the campus' parking situation and the numerous Nobel Laureate, his permanent parking spot may be closer to Memorial Stadium than to his lab in Li Ka Shing Center.

Congratulation to Professor Schekman and GO BEARS!

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