Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak won the 2009 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology on Monday for their work on chromosomes. Here are some details about the winners:
Elizabeth H Blackburn
-- Elizabeth Helen Blackburn is a molecular biologist and biochemist who conducted ground-breaking research on DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and cell division that has provided a new line of inquiry into the chemical bases of life.
-- Her discovery of a key enzyme, telomerase, which is necessary for chromosomes to make copies of themselves before cell division, has been applied to the study of chromosome behaviour and of certain diseases, such as fungal infections and cancer.
-- Blackburn, who has US and Australian citizenship, was born in Hobart, Australia in November 1948. Blackburn's interest in medicine and biology was influenced early on by her parents, both of whom were physicians.
-- Blackburn graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1970 and with a MS degree in 1971.
-- She went to Cambridge University, where she obtained a PhD in molecular biology in 1975. She then went to the United States, drawn by professional and personal reasons. While attending Cambridge, Blackburn met and married John Sedat, an American postdoctoral researcher in biology. -- Blackburn then began her work with telomeres, which help chromosomes to remain stable and whole, thereby ensuring completion of the DNA replication cycle. In 1978 she became assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was to make her ground-breaking discoveries concerning chromosomes and DNA.
-- In 1990 she went to the University of California at San Francisco. She is currently the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at UCSF.
-- She was fired in 2004 from then-President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics for her criticism of his restrictive policy on embryonic stem cell research. Earlier this year she said "The previous administration had this strange impression that science was the enemy of morality".
Carol W Greider
-- Greider began with her adviser, Elizabeth Blackburn, to investigate how a certain single-celled pond organism maintained the tens of thousands of caps on the ends of its mini-chromosomes - specialized structures known as telomeres that protect against DNA damage.
-- Greider is a US citizen and was born in 1961 in San Diego, near the University of California, Davis campus, where her father was a physics professor.
-- Greider received her PhD from University of California, Berkeley, in 1987 in molecular and cell biology. After postdoctoral research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she was appointed professor in the department of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore in 1997.
-- Greider was credited with helping co-discover telomerase, an enzyme that maintains the length and integrity of telomeres. She has continued her work on telomeres and documented a mouse model for dyskeratosis congenital, a rare, inherited disorder related to stem cell failure.
-- Greider shared the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with Blackburn and Szostak.
Jack W Szostak
-- Szostak was born in November 1952 in London and grew up in Canada.
-- He studied at McGill University in Montreal and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he received his PhD in 1977.
-- He has been at Harvard Medical School since 1979 and is currently professor of genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is also affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
-- Szostak has made pioneering contributions to the field of genetics. He has studied the origin and early evolution of life through efforts to design and synthesize a self-replicating protocell capable of Darwinian evolution.