When he was a first-year student at Harvard Medical School, Alfred Goldberg, now a professor of cell biology, wondered why the body destroys its own proteins, which are so vital to life. He wanted to know why muscles lose much of their mass with inactivity, nerve injury, or cancer. To get an answer, he started doing experiments on his own, and kept doing them as he went from graduate student to professor. By the mid-1990s, Goldberg and his colleagues had worked out the structure and the purpose of one of the most magnificent molecular machines put together by nature. Goldberg christened this natural shedder “proteasome,” or a particle that cuts proteins. Goldberg and his colleagues thought that proteasomes could be used to make drugs to treat a number of illnesses. By 1999, a new drug, now called Velcade (bortezomib), was approved for trials with cancer patients. The Food and Drug Administration granted approval of the drug for widespread use on May 13, 2003.