Efraim Racker

Scientist and Artist | June 28, 1913 - September 9, 1991
Photo collage of Efraim Racker

Journey of a Biophysical Chemist in Biomedical Research

Joseph Schlessinger
General lecture
November 5, 2009,

About the speaker

Joseph Schlessinger

Yale University School of Medicine

Joseph Schlessinger was born in 1945 in Croatia two months before WWII ended. Most of his family perished in the holocaust but his parents and grandmother survived by joining the partisans led by Tito. In 1948 his family emigrated to the newly established state of Israel where he served in the IDF, taking part in the Six- day (1967) and Yom Kippur (1973) wars as an infantry brigade Captain.

He received a B.Sc. in Chemistry and Physics (1968) and a M.Sc. in Chemistry (1970) from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Ph.D. Biophysics from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1974. From 1974-1976, he was a postdoctoral associate in the Departments of Chemistry and Applied Physics at Cornell University, working with Prof. Watt Webb, and then was a visiting fellow in immunology at the NIH before joining the faculty of the Weizmann Institute from 1978-1991, where he became Ruth and Leonard Simon Professor of Cancer Research in the Department of Immunology from 1985-1991. He was the Director of the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine at New York University (NYU) Medical Center from 1998-2001 and the Milton and Helen Kimmelman Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at NYU Medical School from 1990-2001. He has been the William H. Prusoff Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine since 2001.

Dr. Schlessinger has been a world leader in the biochemistry of growth factor receptors and their signaling partners and their implications for cancer. He has won a number of awards for his seminal work including the Ciba-Drew Award (1995), the Antoine Lacassagne Prize (1995), The Distinguished Service Award of Miami Biotechnology (1999), and Honorary Membership of the Japanese Biochemical Society (1999). He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) (1982), the National Academy of Sciences (2000), a fellow of the Neuroscience Research Program (2000), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001), and the European Academy of Sciences (2004). He has delivered many named lectures and is a member of several editorial boards and advisory committees. Dr. Schlessinger has founded a number of biotechnology companies that focus on cancer and other diseases including Sugen, Inc., Plexxikon, and Kolltan, and several of his discoveries have led to the development to drugs that are now in clinical trials.