A Nobel gift

Professor Randy Schekman donated his Nobel Prize proceeds to Berkeley, reflecting his strong advocacy for public higher education.

Revealing the exquisitely precise system that transports and secretes proteins in our cells was no easy task, especially when errors in the system can lead to disease. So skeptics initially scoffed in the 1970s when Professor Randy Schekman (pictured), then new to the College of Letters & Science, took an unusual step: He studied yeast.

That step — and the decades of basic research that followed — paved the way to the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, making Schekman Berkeley’s 22nd Nobel laureate. It also led to the mass production of crucial drugs, vaccines, and other products. Today, one-third of the world’s supply of insulin used by diabetics is produced by yeast, as is the entire global supply of the hepatitis B vaccine.

A proud alumnus and spirited booster of the University of California, Schekman appealed for greater investment in public higher education as he stepped into the limelight — then backed it up by donating his prize proceeds toward creating an endowed chair. Named in honor of his mother and sister, who both died of cancer, The Esther and Wendy Schekman Chair in Basic Cancer Biology advances basic research as a pathway to transformative discovery.

“I feel it’s absolutely crucial that places like Berkeley continue to flourish,” he says. “I’m certain that without public higher education, there would be many fewer great scientists in the country.”

Learn more!

The Nobel announcement

A passion for yeast

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