Campus Messages

An archive of email messages sent to the entire UCSF community by the Chancellor and members of the Chancellor's Cabinet.

September 5, 2019
Honors and Awards

Dear Members of the UCSF Community:

We are delighted to share the news that David Julius, PhD, has received a 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. This award recognizes him for “discovering molecules, cells, and mechanisms underlying pain sensation.”

David, professor and chair of the Department of Physiology, was honored for his groundbreaking work in understanding the molecular basis of pain. Through his years at UCSF, David has spearheaded some of the major advances in the field through his identification and characterization of a unique class of nerve-cell ion channels known as TRP (“trip”) receptors.

In that work, David has used distinctive molecules from the natural world – tarantula and scorpion toxins, and the compounds that produce the heat in chili peppers and the zing of wasabi, for instance – to gain an understanding of how signals responsible for temperature and pain sensation are transmitted by neural circuits to the brain. This work has stimulated significant research among scientists who aim to better understand and treat chronic pain, placing David among the world’s most-cited scientists.

David’s work was driven from the start by the great need for effective pain medications without the side effects and addictive potential of opioid drugs. His research has led to significant interest in TRP channels as potential targets for new painkillers. As such, he personifies the importance of basic research in understanding both health and disease. More details on his work can be found at

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