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Fellows Directory

Nahum Sonenberg

Nahum Sonenberg

Professor Nahum Sonenberg FRS


Elected: 2006


Nahum Sonenberg is a microbiologist and biochemist who has made significant advances in understanding the process of translation, through which cells execute their genetic instructions by constructing proteins. He has applied this understanding to a diverse range of topics, ranging from neuronal plasticity to anticancer drugs.

Nahum discovered the eukaryotic initiation factor eIF4E, which begins the process of translation for most proteins by binding to a special cap at the end of a molecule of messenger RNA and introducing it to the ribosome. This led him to uncover proteins that repress translation by binding to eIF4E, the levels of which are raised in cancer, indicating a potential strategy for antitumour therapy.

His discovery that viral proteins and some cellular proteins bypass this process by beginning translation at internal ribosome entry sites (IRES) launched a fruitful new field of research. He received the 2008 Gairdner Foundation International Award, and the Wolf Prize in Medicine in 2014.

Professional positions

Gilman Cheney Chair, Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
    • Cell biology (incl molecular cell biology), Biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Anatomy, physiology and neurosciences
    • Behavioural neuroscience


mRNA translation, Basic cancer research, eIF4E, 4EBP, mTOR, Autism spectrum disorder, Fragile X syndrome, Circadian rhythms


  • Wolf Prize

    In the field of medicine for his discovery of the proteins that control the protein expression mechanism and their operation.

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