27 March: Remembering John Edward Sulston on Birthday

OV Digital Desk
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John Sulston

John Edward Sulston (27 March 1942 – 6 March 2018) was a British biologist and academic. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002 for his contributions to the understanding of the development of the nervous system and the genetic regulation of organ development.

Life and Career

He was born on 27 March 1942, in England. He received his education in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge in England. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1963 and his Ph.D. in 1966. During his Ph.D. studies, he worked on the genetics of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, which would become a major focus of his research throughout his career.

After completing his Ph.D., Sulston went to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute in California, where he continued his research on C. elegans. He later moved to the University of Basel in Switzerland, where he worked on the genetics of bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria.

Sulston was one of the pioneers in using C. elegans as a model organism to study the genetic basis of development. He and his team studied the cell lineages and gene expression patterns during the development of the worm and identified genes that control various aspects of development, including cell division and differentiation.

His work on C. elegans and the human genome contributed significantly to our understanding of the genetic basis of development and disease.

In the 1990s, Sulston led the British part of the Human Genome Project, an international effort to map and sequence the entire human genome. He played a major role in developing the technology and techniques for mapping and sequencing DNA, and in coordinating the efforts of researchers from around the world. His work helped to create the first draft of the human genome sequence, which was completed in 2001.

Sulston was a strong advocate for making scientific information freely available to the public. He opposed attempts to patent genes and argued that scientific research should be conducted in the public interest.

He co-founded the Public Library of Science (PLOS), which promotes the open-access publication of scientific research.

He died on 6 March 2018 of stomach cancer, aged 75 years.

Award and Legacy

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002, which he shared with Sydney Brenner and H. Robert Horvitz for their work on the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death in C. elegans.

He was awarded numerous honors during his career, including the Royal Society’s Royal Medal in 2001 and the Copley Medal in 2008.

Sulston’s legacy in science is significant, particularly in the fields of genetics, genomics, and developmental biology. His research on C. elegans provided key insights into the genetic basis of development, and his leadership of the Human Genome Project was instrumental in creating the first draft of the human genome sequence.

His work has influenced and inspired numerous scientists and researchers in the fields of genetics and genomics, and his advocacy for social responsibility in science continues to have an impact on the scientific community today.

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