Nahum Sonenberg PhD

Recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award, 2008
"For his pioneering discoveries in cellular translation of genetic information."

McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada


Dr. Sonenberg received his BSc and MSc (Microbiology and Immunology) from Tel-Aviv University. Upon completing his Ph.D. (Biochemistry) at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel), he joined the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in Nutley, New Jersey with a Chaim Weizmann postdoctoral fellowship. He joined McGill University in 1979, and is currently the James McGill Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and the McGill Cancer Centre.

Dr. Sonenberg's primary research interest has been the control of protein synthesis. He identified the mRNA 5' cap-binding protein, eIF4E, in 1978. He later discovered the IRES (internal ribosome entry site) mechanism of translation initiation in eukaryotes, as well as the regulation of cap-dependent translation by the eIF4E binding proteins (4E-BPs). He also discovered that eIF4E is a proto-oncogene, levels of which are elevated in cancer, and subsequently demonstrated that rapamycin (an important anti-cancer drug) inhibits eIF4E activity. Finally, while generating 4E-BP 'knock-out' mice, he and his colleagues found that this translation inhibitor plays critical roles in the metabolism of adipose tissue, and learning and memory.

In 2002, Dr. Sonenberg was awarded the Robert L. Noble Prize from the National Cancer Institute of Canada. He is an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Distinguished Scientist and has been a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1992. Dr. Sonenberg has recently been awarded the Killam Prize for Health Sciences.