Biochemist Jeremy Thorner receives prestigious Centenary Award

Jeremy Thorner, UC Berkeley emeritus of molecular and cell biology and recipient

Jeremy Thorner, UC Berkeley emeritus of molecular and cell biology and recipient of the 2022 Centenary Award of the U.K.’s Biochemical Society. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Thorner)

Jeremy Thorner, a professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology who continues to teach and conduct research in the department, has received the prestigious 2022 Centenary Award from The Biochemical Society , the premier organization of biochemists in the United Kingdom.

Thorner, whose research focuses on the protein signals that stimulate changes in cells, was recognized "for his contributions to our understanding of biological signal transduction mechanisms.” The Centenary Award, once called the Jubilee Award, is given annually to a biochemist of distinction from any country.

"When I examine the list of previous recipients of the honor of The Centenary Award and its predecessor, the Jubilee Lectureship, I am truly humbled to be placed in the same company,” Thorner said. "Moreover, I freely acknowledge that, through me, this high accolade is actually bestowed on each of the many outstanding scientists who worked with me over the past 47 years and were directly responsible for our mutual success.”

Thorner joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1974 and held the William V. Power Chair in Biology for 20 years, from 1991 until 2011. He formally retired last year. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This spring, he is co-teaching two molecular biology courses, and last fall taught his ever-popular freshman seminar, "Evolution: Creatures, not Creation,” which he initiated in 2005 to counter the myth of intelligent design.

Thorner’s research centers around signaling proteins called kinases that control most of the complex processes inside cells. Working with yeast cells, he has studied kinases that control gene expression, cell growth, division and differentiation, as well as signaling cascades inside the cell. His current work focuses on kinases that control the stability of cells’ plasma membranes, in particular their lipid and protein components.

The functions of the genes and gene products that he and his lab colleagues discovered over nearly 50 years of research have provided an understanding of biological processes that are broadly applicable to multicellular organisms, including humans.

Born, raised and educated in the public schools in Quincy, Mass., he received his A.B. magna cum laude in biochemical Sciences from Harvard College in 1967 and his PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1972. Other honors include a 10-year MERIT Award from the National Institute for General Medical Sciences, Dean’s Award for Distinguished Research Mentoring of Undergraduates in UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science, and the Herbert Tabor Research Award of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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