This concept emerged during the 1960’s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents by enclosing it in membranes, forming sack-like vesicles that were transported to a recycling compartment, called the lysosome, for degradation. Autophagy can rapidly provide fuel for energy and building blocks for renewal of cellular components. Ossumi’s discoveries opened the path to understanding the fundamental importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as in the adaptation to starvation or response to infection. Yoshinori Ohsumi had been active in various research areas, but upon starting his own lab in 1988, he focused his efforts on protein degradation. He now had a method to identify and characterize key genes involved this process and his research identified the first genes essential for autophagy. Even more, the research tools required to investigate the importance of autophagy in humans were now available. Ohsumi is a professor in Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Frontier Research Center. He previously received He the Kyoto Prize for Basic Science in 2012.