Michael Levitt
Levitt during the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences press conference in Stockholm in December 2013
Born (1947-05-09) 9 May 1947 (age 77)[11]
Pretoria, South Africa
EducationPretoria Boys High School
Alma materKing's College London (BScs)
University of Cambridge (PhD)
SpouseShoshan Brosh[citation needed]
Scientific career
ThesisConformation analysis of proteins (1972)
Doctoral advisorRobert Diamond[5][6]
Notable students

Michael Levitt, FRS[13] (Hebrew: מיכאל לויט; born 9 May 1947) is a South African-born biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, a position he has held since 1987.[14][15] Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,[16] together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[17][18][19][20] In 2018, Levitt was a founding co-editor of the Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science.[21]

Early life and education

Michael Levitt was born in Pretoria, South Africa, to a Jewish family from Plungė, Lithuania; his father was from Lithuania and his mother from the Czech Republic.[22] He attended Sunnyside Primary School and then Pretoria Boys High School between 1960 and 1962. The family moved to England when he was 15.[23] Levitt spent 1963 studying applied mathematics at the University of Pretoria.[24] He attended King's College London, graduating with a first-class honours degree in physics in 1967.[25][11][26]

In 1967, he visited Israel for the first time. Together with his Israeli wife, Rina,[27] a multimedia artist, he left to study at Cambridge, where their three children were born. Levitt was a PhD student in Computational biology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was based at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology from 1968 to 1972, where he developed a computer program for studying the conformations of molecules that underpinned much of his later work.[5][28]

Career and research

In 1979, he returned to Israel and conducted research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, becoming an Israeli citizen in 1980. He served in the Israel Defense Forces for six weeks in 1985. In 1986, he began teaching at Stanford University, and since then has split his time between Israel and California.[23] He went on to gain a research fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

From 1980 to 1987, he was Professor of Chemical Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot. Thereafter, he served as Professor of Structural biology, at Stanford University, California.

Levitt was one of the first researchers to conduct molecular dynamics simulations of DNA and proteins and developed the first software for this purpose.[30][31][32][33] He is currently well known for developing approaches to predict macromolecular structures, having participated in many Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP) competitions,[34] where he criticised molecular dynamics for inability to refine protein structures.[35] He has also worked on simplified representations of protein structure for analysing folding and packing,[36][37][38] as well as developing scoring systems for large-scale sequence-structure comparisons.[39][40] He has mentored many successful scientists, including Mark Gerstein and Ram Samudrala.[4][41] Cyrus Chothia was one of his colleagues.

Industrial collaboration

Levitt has served on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the following companies: Dupont Merck Pharmaceuticals, AMGEN, Protein Design Labs, Affymetrix, Molecular Applications Group, 3D Pharmaceuticals, Algodign, Oplon Ltd, Cocrystal Discovery, InterX, and StemRad, Ltd,.[citation needed]


Levitt has been outspoken during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and made a number of predictions on the disease's spread based on his own modelling.[42][43][44] On March 18, 2020, he predicted that Israel would see less than ten deaths from COVID-19, and on July 25, 2020, he incorrectly predicted that the outbreak in the U.S. would be over by the end of August 2020 with a total of fewer than 170,000 deaths.[45][42][46] As of November 2021, the U.S. was recording COVID-19 deaths at the rate of about 1,000 per day,[47] while Israel has reported over 8,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.[48] However also in March 2020, when community spread of COVID-19 had dropped to zero in China, the Los Angeles Times reported that Levitt was “remarkably accurate” and had correctly forecast a month earlier that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country would be over long before when many health experts had predicted.[44]

Levitt has also raised concerns about potential damaging effects of COVID-19 lockdown orders on economic activity as well in increasing suicide and abuse rates,[43] and has signed the Great Barrington Declaration,[49] a statement supported by a group of academics advocating for alternatives to lockdowns which has been criticized by the WHO and other public health organizations as dangerous and lacking in sound scientific basis.[50][51]

Critics have expressed concern regarding Levitt's incorrect or potentially misleading predictions as well as his anti-lockdown positions, in part due to his status as a Nobel laureate and his large following on Twitter.[42][52] Maia Majumder, a computational epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, stated that "Michael Levitt has a huge, huge following, so this creates lots of problems when he’s tweeting something that may be misinformative."[42] Randy Schekman, a 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winner, wrote of Levitt's expressed positions that "in this instance, I believe he crossed a boundary from data to public policy where the impact of his word as a Nobel laureate has undue influence."[42]

Awards and honors

Levitt was elected an EMBO Member in 1983,[1] a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2001,[13] and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2002,[53] and received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, "for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".[54] He received the DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences in 2014.[55] He was elected an ISCB Fellow by the International Society for Computational Biology in 2015.[2][56]

Personal life

Levitt holds South African, American, British and Israeli citizenship.

His wife Rina died on 23 January 2017.

He is the sixth Israeli to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in under a decade.[57][58]

See also


  1. ^ a b Anon (1983). "Michael Levitt EMBO profile". people.embo.org. Heidelberg: European Molecular Biology Organization.
  2. ^ a b Anon (2017). "ISCB Fellows". iscb.org. International Society for Computational Biology. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017.
  3. ^ Levitt, M. (2001). "The birth of computational structural biology". Nature Structural Biology. 8 (5): 392–393. doi:10.1038/87545. PMID 11323711. S2CID 6519868.
  4. ^ a b Michael Levitt publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  5. ^ a b Levitt, Michael (1972). Conformation analysis of proteins (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. doi:10.17863/CAM.15942. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.463153.
  6. ^ Diamond, R.; Levitt, M. (1971). "A refinement of the structure of lysozyme". Biochemical Journal. 125 (4): 92P. doi:10.1042/bj1250092Pa. PMC 1178298. PMID 5144255.
  7. ^ Daggett, V.; Levitt, M. (1993). "Protein Unfolding Pathways Explored Through Molecular Dynamics Simulations". Journal of Molecular Biology. 232 (2): 600–619. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1993.1414. PMID 7688428. S2CID 2341877.
  8. ^ Gerstein, M.; Levitt, M. (1997). "A structural census of the current population of protein sequences". PNAS. 94 (22): 11911–11916. Bibcode:1997PNAS...9411911G. doi:10.1073/pnas.94.22.11911. PMC 23653. PMID 9342336.
  9. ^ Pethica, R. B.; Levitt, M.; Gough, J. (2012). "Evolutionarily consistent families in SCOP: Sequence, structure and function". BMC Structural Biology. 12: 27. doi:10.1186/1472-6807-12-27. PMC 3495643. PMID 23078280.
  10. ^ Xia, Y.; Huang, E. S.; Levitt, M.; Samudrala, R. (2000). "Ab initio construction of protein tertiary structures using a hierarchical approach". Journal of Molecular Biology. 300 (1): 171–185. doi:10.1006/jmbi.2000.3835. PMID 10864507.
  11. ^ a b Anon (2003). "Levitt, Prof. Michael". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U42816. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  12. ^ a b c d Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy (9 October 2013). "Two American Israelis and US jew share Nobel Prize in Chemistry". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b Anon (2001). "Professor Michael Levitt FRS". London: Royalsociety.org. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 11 November 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  14. ^ "Levitt Lab Server | Computational Structural Biology". Csb.stanford.edu. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  15. ^ "Michael Levitt". Csb.stanford.edu\accessdate=2017-03-22. Archived from the original on 15 July 2010.
  16. ^ Van Noorden, Richard (2013). "Modellers react to chemistry award: Nobel Prize proves that theorists can measure up to experimenters". Nature. 502 (7471): 280. Bibcode:2013Natur.502..280V. doi:10.1038/502280a. PMID 24132265.
  17. ^ Van Noorden, R. (2013). "Computer modellers secure chemistry Nobels". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.13903. S2CID 211729791.
  18. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013" (PDF) (Press release). Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 9 October 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  19. ^ Chang, Kenneth (9 October 2013). "3 Researchers Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Michael Levitt – Facts". Nobelprize.org. 9 May 1947. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  21. ^ Altman, Russ B.; Levitt, Michael (2018). "What is Biomedical Data Science and do We Need an Annual Review of It?". Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science. 1: i–iii. doi:10.1146/annurev-bd-01-041718-100001.
  22. ^ "Foreign Minister congratulates Litvak Levitt on winning Nobel PrizeThe Lithuania Tribune". en.delfi.lt. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  23. ^ a b Ravidyesterday, Barak (10 October 2013). "Nobel laureate Michael Levitt tells Haaretz: 'I still feel 16, so I have no ego' – World". Haaretz. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  24. ^ "News > University of Pretoria". Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  25. ^ "King's College London Calendar: 1968–1969 Page 282". King's Collections. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  26. ^ "Michael Levitt 2 Page CV". Csb.stanford.edu. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Michael Levitt – Photo Gallery". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  28. ^ "Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Peterhouse alumnus". University of Cambridge. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  29. ^ Fiske, Gavriel (9 October 2013). "3 Jewish professors – two of them Israeli – share 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  30. ^ Chothia, C.; Lesk, A. M.; Tramontano, A.; Levitt, M.; Smith-Gill, S. J.; Air, G.; Sheriff, S.; Padlan, E. A.; Davies, D.; Tulip, W. R.; Colman, P. M.; Spinelli, S.; Alzari, P. M.; Poljak, R. J. (1989). "Conformations of immunoglobulin hypervariable regions". Nature. 342 (6252): 877–883. Bibcode:1989Natur.342..877C. doi:10.1038/342877a0. PMID 2687698. S2CID 4241051.
  31. ^ Levitt, M.; Chothia, C. (1976). "Structural patterns in globular proteins". Nature. 261 (5561): 552–558. Bibcode:1976Natur.261..552L. doi:10.1038/261552a0. PMID 934293. S2CID 4154884.
  32. ^ Warshel, A.; Levitt, M. (1976). "Theoretical studies of enzymic reactions: Dielectric, electrostatic and steric stabilization of the carbonium ion in the reaction of lysozyme". Journal of Molecular Biology. 103 (2): 227–249. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(76)90311-9. PMID 985660.
  33. ^ Levitt, M. (1976). "A simplified representation of protein conformations for rapid simulation of protein folding". Journal of Molecular Biology. 104 (1): 59–107. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/0022-2836(76)90004-8. PMID 957439.
  34. ^ Chopra, G.; Kalisman, N.; Levitt, M. (2010). "Consistent refinement of submitted models at CASP using a knowledge-based potential". Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics. 78 (12): 2668–78. doi:10.1002/prot.22781. PMC 2911515. PMID 20589633.
  35. ^ CASP participants usually did not try to use MD to avoid "a central embarrassment of molecular mechanics, namely that energy minimization or molecular dynamics generally leads to a model that is less like the experimental structure", Koehl, P; Levitt, M (1999). "A brighter future for protein structure prediction". Nature Structural Biology. 6 (2): 108–11. doi:10.1038/5794. PMID 10048917. S2CID 3162636.
  36. ^ Hinds, D. A.; Levitt, M. (1994). "Exploring conformational space with a simple lattice model for protein structure". Journal of Molecular Biology. 243 (4): 668–682. doi:10.1016/0022-2836(94)90040-X. PMID 7966290.
  37. ^ Park, B.; Levitt, M. (1996). "Energy Functions that Discriminate X-ray and Near-native Folds from Well-constructed Decoys". Journal of Molecular Biology. 258 (2): 367–392. CiteSeerX doi:10.1006/jmbi.1996.0256. PMID 8627632.
  38. ^ Gerstein, M.; Tsai, J.; Levitt, M. (1995). "The Volume of Atoms on the Protein Surface: Calculated from Simulation, using Voronoi Polyhedra". Journal of Molecular Biology. 249 (5): 955–966. doi:10.1006/jmbi.1995.0351. PMID 7540695. S2CID 14691078.
  39. ^ Levitt, M.; Gerstein, M. (1998). "A unified statistical framework for sequence comparison and structure comparison". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 95 (11): 5913–5920. Bibcode:1998PNAS...95.5913L. doi:10.1073/pnas.95.11.5913. PMC 34495. PMID 9600892.
  40. ^ Brenner, S. E.; Koehl, P.; Levitt, M. (2000). "The ASTRAL compendium for protein structure and sequence analysis". Nucleic Acids Research. 28 (1): 254–256. doi:10.1093/nar/28.1.254. PMC 102434. PMID 10592239.
  41. ^ Michael Levitt publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  42. ^ a b c d e Boodman, Eric (24 May 2021). "He's a Stanford professor and a Nobel laureate. Critics say he was dangerously misleading on Covid". Stat. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  43. ^ a b Lloyd, Zenobia. "Q&A: Michael Levitt on why there shouldn't be a lockdown, how he's been tracking coronavirus". Stanford Daily. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  44. ^ a b "Why this Nobel laureate predicts a quicker coronavirus recovery: 'We're going to be fine'". Los Angeles Times.
  45. ^ Levitt, Michael. "US Covid19 will be d one in 4 weeks". Twitter.
  46. ^ "Prof Michael Levitt: here's what I got wrong – The Post". UnHerd. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  47. ^ Bosman, Julie; Harmon, Amy; Sun, Albert; Reynolds, Chloe; Cahalan, Sarah (15 December 2021). "Covid deaths in the United States surpass 800,000". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  48. ^ Krauss, Joseph (26 November 2021). "Israel warns of 'emergency' after detecting new virus strain". ABC.
  49. ^ Young, Robin. "Herd Immunity Is 'Pixie Dust Thinking,' Infectious Disease Expert Says". WBUR. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  50. ^ Hellmann, Jessie (15 October 2020). "Dozens of public health groups, experts blast 'herd immunity' strategy backed by White House". The Hill. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
  51. ^ Staff and agencies in Geneva (12 October 2020). "WHO chief says herd immunity approach to pandemic 'unethical'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  52. ^ Samuel, Fishwick (13 October 2020). "'I've had emails calling me evil'... Meet the Covid scientists at war". Evening Standard.
  53. ^ "Michael Levitt". Member Directory. National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  54. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013" (PDF). Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  55. ^ "2014 ASBMB Annual Awards: DeLano Award for Computational Biosciences". Asbmb.org. Archived from the original on 22 January 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  56. ^ "Feb 20, 2015: Meet the ISCB Fellows Class of 2015". Iscb.org. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  57. ^ Pileggi, Tamar (9 October 2013). "Tiny Israel a Nobel heavyweight, especially in chemistry". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  58. ^ Solomon, Shoshanna. "Israelis lose out to US-German trio for Nobel medicine prize". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 22 March 2017.

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