David Julius is the Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine, and professor and chair of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. The Julius lab is interested in understanding how signals are received and transmitted by the nervous system. They have exploited the properties of natural products to discover a family of thermo- and chemo-sensitive ion channels that enable sensory nerve fibers to detect hot or cold temperatures or chemical irritants. With the aid of genetic, electrophysiological and behavioral methods, they have determined how these and other ion channels contribute to the detection of noxious stimuli and how this process is modulated by tumor growth, infection or other forms of injury that produce inflammation and pain hypersensitivity.
Julius received his undergraduate degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked with Alexander Rich on the enzymology of transfer RNA (tRNA) aminoacylation. He then moved to the University of California, Berkeley, for graduate studies, where he worked with Jeremy Thorner and Randy Schekman to elucidate mechanisms of peptide hormone processing and secretion in Saccharomyces yeast. For postdoctoral studies, Julius joined Richard Axel’s group at Columbia University, where his focus turned to neuropharmacology and receptor function.
Julius is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (honorary). His awards include the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the Perl/UNC Prize, the Unilever Science Prize, the Passano Award, the Prince of Asturias Prize for Technical and Scientific Research, the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine, the Paul Janssen Prize for Biomedical Research and the Canada Gairdner International Award.