The March of Dimes Prize is a cash award of $250,000 and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime, in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who founded the March of Dimes.

Dr. Varshavsky, the Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology in the Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, has been credited by his peers with co-founding the field of ubiquitin research and ushering it into the age of molecular genetics. His pioneering studies in the 1980s brought to light the remarkably diverse and important biological functions of the ubiquitin system.

Ubiquitin is a protein found in every cell of all living things, from yeast to human beings. It attaches itself to many other proteins in cells – specifically those proteins that have outlived their purpose, or are abnormal, or must be destroyed to regulate their levels in a cell. Ubiquitin marks these proteins for destruction by a protein-degrading molecular "machine" called the proteasome.

Dr. Varshavsky's laboratory discovered that ubiquitin plays important roles in the cell cycle, DNA repair, protein synthesis, transcriptional regulation, and responses to stress.

Today, the study of ubiquitin has implications for research into the causes of birth defects, neurodegenerative syndromes, cancer, and immune disorders. "Dr. Varshavsky's work has provided rich insight into the ubiquitin system and its crucial role in regulating living cells," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.; Source: March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation