Thomas Südhof is Professor in Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Südhof was born in Göttingen, Germany, on December 22, 1955. He developed his interest in cell biology while working with Viktor P. Whittaker at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, where he obtained a PhD on the secretion of hormones from the adrenal gland.
In 1983, Südhof moved as post-doc to the U.S. to join the laboratory of Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He succeeded in cloning the receptor of LDL (the low-density lipoprotein receptor), contributing to the reputation of Brown and Goldstein, who in 1985 were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work on cholesterol metabolism.
Südhof secured his first independent position as Assistant Investigator at UT Southwestern in 1986, and received several promotions to the position of Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics (1991–2008), and Director of the Center for Basic Neuroscience. During this time, he set out to elucidate the molecular basis of signalling in the nervous system, focusing specifically on how chemicals known as neurotransmitters are released at junctions between neurons called synapses. Südhof succeeded in cloning and identifying a range of proteins involved in this process, and received several awards. He then moved to Stanford University School of Medicine, where he has continued to research the mechanisms of neuronal signalling at the pre-synaptic membrane. More recently, Südhof has turned his attention to understanding diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, and Schizophrenia.
Among his many honors and awards, Südhof was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2002, and the Institute of Medicine in 2007, and in 2008 shared the Bernhard Katz Award of the Biophysical Society with Reinhard Jahn.