The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Julius (left) and Patapoutian (right) "for the discovery of receptors for temperature and touch."
Date4 October 2021 (2021-10-04)
Presented byNobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet
Hosted byThomas Perlmann
Reward(s)9 million SEK (2017)[1]
First awarded1901
2021 laureatesDavid Julius and Ardem Patapoutian
Website2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
← 2020 · Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine · 2022 →

The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to the American physiologist David Julius (b. 1955) and Armenian-American neuroscientist Ardem Patapoutian (b. 1967) "for the discovery of receptors for temperature and touch."[2] During the award ceremony on December 10, 2021, Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet member Patrik Ernfors expressed:

"The 2021 Nobel Prize laureates have explained fundamental mechanisms underpinning how we sense the world within and around us. Our temperature and touch sensors are used all the time in every day of our lives. They continuously keep us updated about our environment, and without them even the simplest of our daily tasks would be impossible to perform."[3]


Discovery of TRPV1 and PIEZO2.

David Julius

Main article: David Julius

David Julius was born in 1955 in New York, United States. He received a Ph.D. in 1984 from University of California, Berkeley and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University in New York. In 1989, David Julius was recruited as professor to the University of California, San Francisco.[4][5] He was the recipient of numerous prestigious awards such as the 2010 Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Medicine, the 2010 Prince of Asturias Prize for Technical and Scientific Research, the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences,[6] and the 2020 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience (together with Patapoutian)[7] and the 2020 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award.[8]

Ardem Patapoutian

Main article: Ardem Patapoutian

Ardem Patapoutian was born to an Armenian family in 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon. In his youth, he moved from a war-torn Beirut to Los Angeles, United States and received a Ph.D. in biology in 1996 from California Institute of Technology. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. Since 2000, he is a scientist at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California where he is now Professor. Since 2014, he is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.[9][10] He was a recipient of the 2017 W. Alden Spencer Award, the 2019 Rosenstiel Award, 2020 Kavli Prize for Neuroscience,[7] and the 2020 the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biology / Biomedicine.[8]


In announcing the winners, Thomas Perlmann, secretary-general of the Karolinska Institute, said: "This really unlocks one of the secrets of nature. It’s actually something that is crucial for our survival, so it’s a very important and profound discovery."[11][12] The Nobel Committee believed that Julius and Patapoutian's discoveries address "one of the greatest mysteries facing humanity" – the sensation of the environment.[11][13] Oscar Marín, director of the MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at King's College London, expressed that the choice of this year's winners underscored how little scientists knew about that question before the discoveries and how much there still is to learn.[11][14]

Jan Adams, chief officer at Grünenthal, which markets pain relief skin patches and creams based on the TRPV1 capsaicin receptor discovered by Julius, said their discoveries had "opened up a whole new field of research for new non-opioid pain therapies".[12][14] Fiona Boissonade, pain specialist at the University of Sheffield, said the Nobel laureates' work was especially relevant for the one in five people globally that suffer from chronic pain. She said: "Their research may lead us to identify new compounds that are effective in treating pain that don't come with the devastating impact of opioids."[11][12]

Key publications

The following publications were the fundamental researches that motivated the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet to award the 2021 Prize to Julius and Patapoutian:[15]

David Julius

Ardem Patapoutian


  1. ^ "Nobel Prize amount is raised by SEK 1 million". Archived from the original on 1 February 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  2. ^ The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021
  3. ^ Award ceremony speech - 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  4. ^ David Julius – Facts
  5. ^ David Julius
  6. ^ "Breakthrough Prize – Winners Of The 2020 Breakthrough Prize In Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics And Mathematics Announced". Archived from the original on 14 December 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b "2020 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience". Archived from the original on 15 June 2020. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  8. ^ a b "homepage". Premios Fronteras. Archived from the original on 21 September 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  9. ^ Ardem Patapoutian – Facts
  10. ^ Ardem Patapoutian
  11. ^ a b c d "2 Win Medicine Nobel for Showing How We React to Heat, Touch". U.S. News & World Report. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Johan Ahlander and Ludwig Burger (5 October 2021). "Two Americans win Medicine Nobel for work on heat and touch". Reuters. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  13. ^ Tanya Lewis (8 October 2021). "2021 Medicine Nobel Prize Winner Explains the Importance of Sensing Touch". Scientific American. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  14. ^ a b David Keyton and Maria Cheng (5 October 2021). "2 win medicine Nobel for showing how we react to heat, touch". AP News. Retrieved 20 August 2022.
  15. ^ Press release: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2021