James E. Rothman ’71, the Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Yale and the chair of the Department of Cell Biology, is a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.”
He shares the distinction and prize of 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million) with Randy W. Schekman of the Universiy of California at Berkeley and Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford.
Together, the three recipients’ research pieces together how vesicles — cellular delivery packages — get to where they need to go. Dr. Rothman’s specific contribution deals with the protein machinery that allows vesicles to dock at their destinations.
The award may not have come as a complete surprise. In 2002, Rothman won the prestigious Lasker Award—often referred to as “America’s Nobel.” He won the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize that same year. Forty-six percent of Horwitz recipients have gone on to win the Nobel.
Professor Jonathan S. Bogan said that Rothman’s seminal work was completed in the late 80s and early 90s, when Rothman was based at Stanford. Bogan said many in the profession were expecting Rothman to receive the award.
“It was just a question of which year.”