Alexander Varshavsky

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Alexander Jacob Varshavsky (Russian: Александр Яковлевич Варшавский; born 8 November 1946) is a Russian-American biochemist, noted for his discovery of the N-end rule of ubiquitination. A native of Moscow,[1] he is currently researching at Caltech.

Varshavsky provided an original approach to killing cancer cells, proffering the idea of a targeted molecular device that could enter a cell, examine it for DNA deletions specific to cancer and killing it if it meets the right profile. "(It) involves, in a nutshell, the finding of a genuine Achilles' heel of cancer cells, i.e. their potentially vulnerable feature that won't change during tumor progression," said Varshavsky.

The approach termed deletion-specific targeting (DST), employs HDs (homozygous DNA deletions) as the targets of cancer therapy. "In contrast to other attributes of cancer cells, their HDs are immutable markers. If the DST strategy can be implemented in a clinical setting, it may prove to be both curative and free of side effects."


Recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 1999, Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2000, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, the Massry Prize from the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in 2001, and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in 2001 for his research on ubiquitination.

In 2006 he won the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, and he won the 2007 $1 million Gotham Prize for an original approach to killing cancer cells.

He has received the 2011 FBBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award of Biomedicine for his discovery of the mechanisms intervening in protein degradation and their importance in biological systems. His work has implications for the understanding of cancer and immunological and neurodegenerative diseases.

In 2014 he was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work.[2]

Year Prize Citation
1999 Gairdner Foundation International Award Ubiquitination
2000 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research Ubiquitination
2001 Wolf Prize in Medicine Ubiquitination
2001 Massry Prize Ubiquitination
2001 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize Ubiquitination
2006 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology Killing cancer cells
2007 Gotham Prize Killing cancer cells
2012 King Faisal International Prize Killing cancer cells
2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Killing cancer cells



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