Alexander Varshavsky

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."


Varshavsky was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987.[2]

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1995.[3]

Recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award[4] in 1999, Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research[5] in 2000, the Wolf Prize in Medicine,[6] the Massry Prize from the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in 2001, and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize[7] from Columbia University in 2001 for his research on ubiquitination. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society that same year.[8]

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.

In 2010, he received the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science.[9] The following year, he received the BBVA 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. He also served on the Life Sciences jury for the Infosys Prize in 2011.

In 2014 he was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work [10] and also the Albany Medical Center Prize.[11]

Year Prize
1999 Gairdner Foundation International Award
2000 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
2000 Pasarow Award
2001 Wolf Prize in Medicine
2001 Massry Prize
2001 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize
2006 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology
2007 Gotham Prize
2010 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science
2011 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award
2012 King Faisal International Prize
2012 Otto Warburg Medal
2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
2014 Albany Medical Center Prize

Political positionsEdit

In February-March 2022, he signed an open letter by Breakthrough Prize laureates condemning the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[12]


  1. ^ Who's who in the West: A Biographical Dictionary of Noteworthy Men and Women of the Pacific Coast and the Western States. 2001. ISBN 978-0-8379-0932-5.
  2. ^ "Alexander Varshavsky". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  3. ^ "Alexander Varshavsky". Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  4. ^ "Alexander J. Varshavsky". Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research". Archived from the original on 30 March 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Wolf Prize in Medicine". Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  7. ^ "Horwitz Prize Awardees". Columbia University Irving Medical Center. 20 June 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  8. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021-10-18.
  9. ^ "ASBMB News". Retrieved 2015-11-11.
  10. ^ "Breakthrough Prize – Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize – Laureates". Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  11. ^ "Albany Medical College: AlbanyPrize". Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  12. ^ An open letter from Breakthrough Prize laureates