Joseph Schlessinger is a Israeli biochemist and biophysician. He is chair of the Pharmacology Department at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, as well as the founding director of the school's new Cancer Biology Institute. His area of research is signaling through tyrosine phosphorylation, which is important in many areas of cellular regulation, especially growth control and cancer. Schlessinger's work has led to an understanding of the mechanism of transmembrane signaling by receptor tyrosine kinases and how the resulting signals control cell growth and differentiation.
Schlessinger received his B.Sc. degree in Chemistry and Physics in 1968 (magna cum laude), and an M.Sc. degree in chemistry (also magna cum laude) in 1970 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He obtained his PhD degree in biophysics from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1974. From 1974–1976, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Departments of Chemistry and Applied Physics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, working with Elliot Elson and Watt W. Webb. From 1977–1978, he was a visiting fellow in the immunology branch of the National Cancer Institute.
Schlessinger was a member of the faculty of the Weizmann Institute from 1978–1991 and was the Ruth and Leonard Simon Professor of Cancer Research in the Department of Immunology from 1985–1991. In addition, he was a Research Director for Rorer Biotechnology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, from 1985–1990. In 1990, he was appointed as the Milton and Helen Kimmelman Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the New York University School of Medicine. He served as Director of the Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Medical Center from 1998–2001.
He has been the William H. Prusoff Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine since 2001. He was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2000, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and to the Institute of Medicine in 2005. He is a member of the editorial boards of several journals, including Cell, Molecular Cell, the Journal of Cell Biology, and the Science magazine Science Signaling.
Schlessinger is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Michael Landau Prize (1973), the Sara Leady Prize (1980), the Hestrin Prize (1983),]the Levinson Prize (1984), a Ciba-Drew Award (1995), the Antoine Lacassagne Prize (1995), the Taylor Prize (2000), and the Dan David Prize (2006). In 2002, he was granted an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa. In addition he has given named lectures at many institutions, including the Harvey Society (in the 1993–1994 Harvey Lectures series) and the 2006 Keith R. Porter Lecture of the American Society for Cell Biology. In 2009, he was elected as a Member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 2012, the Hope Funds for Cancer Research selected Schlessinger to receive their Award of Excellence for Clinical Development. In 2009, Schlessinger was awarded with great order by President of Croatia Stjepan Mesić for outstanding service in promoting Croatia in the international scientific community and for the contribution within Croatian biomedical sciences.