Michael Levitt

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For the American television producer, see Michael Levitt (producer).
Michael Levitt
Nobel Prize Laureate Michael Levitt during press conference in Stockholm, December 2013.
Nobel Prize Laureate Michael Levitt during press conference in Stockholm, December 2013.
Born (1947-05-09) 9 May 1947 (age 67)[1]
Citizenship American, Israeli, British
Fields Computational Biology
Protein structure prediction
Institutions Stanford University
Weizmann Institute of Science
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
University of Cambridge
Alma mater King's College London (BSc)
Peterhouse, Cambridge (PhD)
Thesis Conformation analysis of proteins (1972)
Doctoral advisor R. Diamond[2]
Doctoral students Miri Hirshberg
Chris Lee
David Hinds
Britt Park
Enoch Huang
Dahlia Weiss
Adelene Sim
Gaurav Chopra
Jerry Tsai
Yu Xia[3][4]
Other notable students (postdocs)
Valerie Daggett[5]
Ram Samudrala[6]
Mark Gerstein[7]
Steven E. Brenner
Julian Gough[8]
Julie Bernauer
Tanya Raschke
Abraham Samson
Gunnar Schroeder
Chen Kaesar
Peter Minary
Xuhui Huang
Junjie Zhang
Boris Fain
Leonid Pereyaslavets
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society 2001
Member of the National Academy of Sciences
EMBO member[9]
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013
Spouse Rina
Michael Levitt at the Biophysical Society meeting, February 2013

Michael Levitt, FRS (born 9 May 1947) is an American-British-Israeli[10] biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, a position he has held since 1987.[11][12] His research is in computational biology[13] and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[14][15]


Michael Levitt was born in Pretoria, South Africa, to a Jewish family from Plungė, Lithuania; his father was Lithuanian and his mother was of Czech descent.[16] He attended Sunnyside Primary School and then Pretoria Boys High School between 1960 and 1962. The family moved to England when he was 15.[17] Levitt spent 1963 studying applied mathematics at the University of Pretoria.[18] He attended King's College London, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1967.[1][19]

In 1967, he visited Israel for the first time. Together with his Israeli wife, Rina, a multimedia artist, he left to study at Cambridge, where his three children were born. In 1979, he returned to Israel and conducted research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, becoming an Israeli citizen in 1980. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces for six weeks in 1985. In 1986, he began teaching at Stanford, and since then has split his time between Israel and California.[20]

Levitt holds American, British and Israeli citizenship (he is the 6th Israeli to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in under a decade).[21][22]

Levitt spends time every year in Israel, where his wife and children live.[23][24]

Academic career[edit]

Levitt was a PhD student in Computational Biology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was based at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology from 1968 to 1972, where he developed a computer program for studying the conformations of molecules that underpinned much of his later work.[25][26] In 1967, he was sent on behalf of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology of Cambridge University, to Israel, to work at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with Professor Shneior Lifson and a student of his – Arieh Warshel, of the Technion in Haifa. They were using computer modelling to understand the behaviour of biological molecules.[27]

He went on to gain a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

From 1980 to 1987, he was Professor of Chemical Physics at Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Thereafter, he has served as Professor of Structural biology, at Stanford University, California.


Levitt was one of the first researchers to conduct molecular dynamics simulations of DNA and proteins and developed the first software for this purpose.[28][29][30][31] He is currently well known for developing approaches to predict macromolecular structures, having participated in many Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP) competitions,[32] where he criticized molecular dynamics for inability to refine protein structures.[33] He has also worked on simplified representations of protein structure for analyzing folding and packing[34][35][36] and developing scoring systems for large-scale sequence-structure comparisons.[37][38] He has mentored many successful scientists, including Mark Gerstein and Ram Samudrala.[39] Cyrus Chothia was one of his colleagues.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[40]

Industry Involvement[edit]

Levitt has served on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the following companies: Oplon Ltd, Cocrystal Discovery, StemRad, Ltd, and Cengent Therapeutics, Inc.


  1. ^ a b "‘LEVITT, Prof. Michael’, Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press". (subscription required)
  2. ^ Diamond, R.; Levitt, M. (1971). "A refinement of the structure of lysozyme". The Biochemical journal 125 (4): 92P. PMC 1178298. PMID 5144255.  edit
  3. ^ "Past colleagues in the Levitt Lab". 
  4. ^ "Present colleagues in the Levitt Lab". 
  5. ^ Daggett, V.; Levitt, M. (1993). "Protein Unfolding Pathways Explored Through Molecular Dynamics Simulations". Journal of Molecular Biology 232 (2): 600–619. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1993.1414. PMID 7688428.  edit
  6. ^ Xia, Y.; Huang, E. S.; Levitt, M.; Samudrala, R. (2000). "Ab initio construction of protein tertiary structures using a hierarchical approach". Journal of Molecular Biology 300 (1): 171–185. doi:10.1006/jmbi.2000.3835. PMID 10864507.  edit
  7. ^ Gerstein, M.; Levitt, M. (1997). "A structural census of the current population of protein sequences". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 94 (22): 11911–11916. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.22.11911. PMC 23653. PMID 9342336.  edit
  8. ^ Pethica, R. B.; Levitt, M.; Gough, J. (2012). "Evolutionarily consistent families in SCOP: Sequence, structure and function". BMC Structural Biology 12: 27. doi:10.1186/1472-6807-12-27. PMC 3495643. PMID 23078280.  edit
  9. ^ http://www.embo.org/embo-members/find-a-member.html Find an EMBO member
  10. ^ 2 Israeli-Americans awarded Nobel Prize in chemistry 9 October 2013, 16:36, Ynet
  11. ^ http://csb.stanford.edu/ Levitt Lab website
  12. ^ http://csb.stanford.edu/levitt/ Lab Website Profile Page
  13. ^ Levitt, M. (2001). "The birth of computational structural biology". Nature Structural Biology 8 (5): 392–393. doi:10.1038/87545. PMID 11323711.  edit
  14. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013" (Press release). Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Chang, Kenneth (9 October 2013). "3 Researchers Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry". New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Foreign Minister congratulates Litvak Levitt on winning Nobel Prize
  17. ^ Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego’
  18. ^ http://web.up.ac.za/default.asp?ipkCategoryID=8641&ArticleID=18621
  19. ^ http://csb.stanford.edu/levitt/2_Page_CV.html Michael Levitt CV
  20. ^ Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego’
  21. ^ Tiny Israel a Nobel heavyweight, especially in chemistry
  22. ^ [1] By Haviv Rettig Gur, 9 October 2013, Times of Israel
  23. ^ Two Israeli scientists who emigrated to U.S. win Nobel Prize in Chemistry Haaretz, by Ido Efrati, 9 October 2013
  24. ^ Nobel laureate: I didn't get tenure in Israel Yitzhak Benhorin, Washington, Ynet, 9 October 2013
  25. ^ Levitt, Michael (1972). Conformation analysis of proteins (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  26. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Peterhouse alumnus". Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  27. ^ Computer chemists win Nobel prize By James Morgan and Jonathan Amos, BBC News, 9 October 2013
  28. ^ Chothia, C.; Lesk, A. M.; Tramontano, A.; Levitt, M.; Smith-Gill, S. J.; Air, G.; Sheriff, S.; Padlan, E. A.; Davies, D.; Tulip, W. R.; Colman, P. M.; Spinelli, S.; Alzari, P. M.; Poljak, R. J. (1989). "Conformations of immunoglobulin hypervariable regions". Nature 342 (6252): 877–883. Bibcode:1989Natur.342..877C. doi:10.1038/342877a0. PMID 2687698.  edit
  29. ^ Levitt, M.; Chothia, C. (1976). "Structural patterns in globular proteins". Nature 261 (5561): 552–558. Bibcode:1976Natur.261..552L. doi:10.1038/261552a0. PMID 934293.  edit
  30. ^ Warshel, A.; Levitt, M. (1976). "Theoretical studies of enzymic reactions: Dielectric, electrostatic and steric stabilization of the carbonium ion in the reaction of lysozyme". Journal of Molecular Biology 103 (2): 227–249. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(76)90311-9. PMID 985660.  edit
  31. ^ Levitt, M. (1976). "A simplified representation of protein conformations for rapid simulation of protein folding". Journal of Molecular Biology 104 (1): 59–107. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(76)90004-8. PMID 957439.  edit
  32. ^ Chopra, G.; Kalisman, N.; Levitt, M. (2010). "Consistent refinement of submitted models at CASP using a knowledge-based potential". Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics 78 (12): n/a–n/a. doi:10.1002/prot.22781. PMC 2911515. PMID 20589633.  edit
  33. ^ CASP participants usually did not try to use MD to avoid "a central embarrassment of molecular mechanics, namely that energy minimization or molecular dynamics generally leads to a model that is less like the experimental structure", Koehl P. and Michael Levitt (1999). "A brighter future for protein structure prediction". Nature Structural Biology vol. 6 108–111.
  34. ^ Hinds, D. A.; Levitt, M. (1994). "Exploring conformational space with a simple lattice model for protein structure". Journal of molecular biology 243 (4): 668–682. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(94)90040-X. PMID 7966290.  edit
  35. ^ Park, B.; Levitt, M. (1996). "Energy Functions that Discriminate X-ray and Near-native Folds from Well-constructed Decoys". Journal of Molecular Biology 258 (2): 367–392. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1996.0256. PMID 8627632.  edit
  36. ^ Gerstein, M.; Tsai, J.; Levitt, M. (1995). "The Volume of Atoms on the Protein Surface: Calculated from Simulation, using Voronoi Polyhedra". Journal of Molecular Biology 249 (5): 955–966. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1995.0351. PMID 7540695.  edit
  37. ^ Levitt, M.; Gerstein, M. (1998). "A unified statistical framework for sequence comparison and structure comparison". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95 (11): 5913–5920. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.11.5913. PMC 34495. PMID 9600892.  edit
  38. ^ Brenner, S. E.; Koehl, P.; Levitt, M. (2000). "The ASTRAL compendium for protein structure and sequence analysis". Nucleic acids research 28 (1): 254–256. doi:10.1093/nar/28.1.254. PMC 102434. PMID 10592239.  edit
  39. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  40. ^ http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2013/press.pdf

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Brian Kobilka
Robert Lefkowitz
Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate
With: Martin Karplus
Arieh Warshel
Most recent