David Julius is an American neurobiologist. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in life sciences in 1977 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He rejected the idea of studying medicine after enjoying undergraduate laboratory research and chose to do a PhD on peptide hormone biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, supervised by Randy Schekman and Jeremy Thorner, awarded in 1984.
He then joined Richard Axel at Columbia University where his interest in neuropharmacology led to the cloning of several receptors for serotonin and won him the 1990 NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award. Since 1990 he has held appointments at the University of California, San Francisco, where he discovered a family of ion channels sensitive to temperature and chemical stimuli which provide a molecular basis for touch and pain sensation. He continues this work today as the Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine, and Professor and Chair of Physiology.
Julius was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2004, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, and became honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Science in recognition of his work on the TRPV1 receptor for capsaicin and temperature.
Other recent awards include the 2017 Canada Gairdner International Award, the 2019 Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Award (jointly with Ardem Patapoutian) and the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.