Monday, December 2, 2013
Dr. Randy Schekman sat down with NICHD to describe his research, talk about the role of NIH in supporting his discoveries and discuss his plans for the future.
Dr. Schekman came to the NIH to deliver his first public lecture since winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In the lecture, titled, “Biogenesis and the Function of the Autophagosome,” he described the sequence of events governing a process whereby cells, faced with starvation, cannibalize some of their inner materials in order to continue functioning. Known as autophagy, the process has implications for how humans and other animals respond to stress, oxygen deficiency and infection.
Dr. Schekman, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California in Berkeley, won the Nobel for his role in deciphering how proteins are transported inside cells and how cells control this trafficking process to secrete hormones and enzymes. His findings provided the basis for the later development of protein drugs by the biotech industry, such as insulin and human growth hormone.
After the lecture, Dr. Schekman spoke with NICHD staff about how he chose yeast as a model organism for cellular processes, his support from NIH and his new investigations on the significance of autophagy.
“I’m a basic research scientist,” he said during the post-lecture interview. “I’ve been guided by an abiding interest in how the cell works, mindful of the fact that when something fundamental is discovered, it can have application.”