Dr. Randy Schekman is a Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He studied the enzymology of DNA replication as a graduate student with Arthur Kornberg at Stanford University. His current interest in cellular membranes developed during a postdoctoral period with S. J. Singer at the University of California, San Diego. At Berkeley, he developed a genetic and biochemical approach to the study of eukaryotic membrane traffic. Among his awards are the Gairdner International Award, the Albert Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shared with James Rothman and Thomas Südhof. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, a Foreign Associate of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, a Foreign Associate of the Royal Society of London and an Honorary Academician of the Academia Sinica. In 1999, he was elected President of the American Society for Cell Biology. In 2002 he was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Annual Reviews of Cell and Developmental Biology. From 2006 - 2011 he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Proceedings of the NAS. In 2011, he was appointed Editor-in-Chief of an Open Access journal, eLife, sponsored by the HHMI, Wellcome Trust and the Max Planck Society.
Schekman’s laboratory investigates the mechanism of membrane protein traffic in the secretory pathway in eukaryotic cells. His approach began with a genetic and biochemical dissection of the secretory pathway in the yeast, S.cerevisiae. His lab discovered the genes and proteins that assemble proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane, package proteins into coated (COPII) transport vesicles and deliver vesicles by fusion at a target membrane. The genes and proteins his lab discovered in yeast have counterparts in all eukaryotes and have been implicated in several human genetic diseases. The evolutionary conservation of the pathway discovered in Schekman’s lab encouraged the biotechnology industry to use yeast as a platform for the production of clinically important human secreted proteins. Approximately one-third of the world supply of recombinant human insulin is made by secretion in yeast and the entire world supply of recombinant hepatitis b vaccine is made in vesicles produced in yeast. As hepatitis b infection is the major cause of liver cancer in the world, this vaccine promises to reduce the incidence of liver cancer by 90%. In recent years his lab has turned from yeast to mammalian cell culture to investigate aspects of human physiology and disease that are not readily studied in yeast.