News Release

Society for Neuroscience celebrates winners of Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine

Grant and Award Announcement

Society for Neuroscience

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, pioneering neuroscientists whose work discovered receptors for touch and temperature, have been awarded the 2021 Novel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

As described by the press release from the Nobel Assembly: “David Julius utilized capsaicin, a pungent compound from chili peppers that induces a burning sensation, to identify a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to heat. Ardem Patapoutian used pressure-sensitive cells to discover a novel class of sensors that respond to mechanical stimuli in the skin and internal organs.”

“These breakthrough discoveries launched intense research activities leading to a rapid increase in our understanding of how our nervous system senses heat, cold, and mechanical stimuli. The Laureates identified critical missing links in our understanding of the complex interplay between our senses and the environment.”

David Julius, a past SfN member, was born in 1955 in New York, USA. He received a PhD in 1984 from University of California, Berkeley and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, in New York. David Julius was recruited to the University of California, San Francisco in 1989 where he is now Professor. In 2007, Julius received the Julius Axelrod Prize, an SfN Lifetime Achievement Award that honors a scientist with distinguished achievements in the broad field of neuropharmacology (or a related area) and exemplary efforts in mentoring young scientists.

Ardem Patapoutian, a current SfN member, was born in 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon. In his youth, he moved from a war-torn Beirut to Los Angeles, USA and received a PhD in 1996 from California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, USA. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. Since 2000, he is a scientist at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California where he is now Professor. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 2014. In 2006, Patapoutian received the Young Investigator Award, an SfN Early Career Award that recognizes the outstanding achievements and contributions by a young neuroscientist who has demonstrated scholarly independence.


The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.

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