Nobel laureates have sfu colleagues

November 16, 2006, Volume 37, no.6
By Carol Thorbes



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Their link may not be genetic but it certainly shows great minds think alike. Some of this year's Nobel Prize winners have collaborated with SFU molecular biologists and biochemists.

David Baillie, an SFU Canada Research Chair in genomics, co-authored one of Nobel laureate Andrew Fire's most cited papers on a fundamental mechanism for controlling the flow of genetic information. The mechanism is known as RNA interference.

Fire, a Stanford University professor of medicine and Craig Mello, a University of Massachusetts professor of medicine, earned this year's Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering RNA interference.

Harald Hutter, an SFU professor of developmental biology, recently published a paper with Fire and witnessed the birth of the latter's Nobel Prize winning research in the late 1990s. The lab in which Hutter was a postdoctoral fellow at the time had joint meetings with Fire's lab, “so I've seen the story unfold from its first preliminary results presented in lab meetings,” says Hutter.

Roger Kornberg is this year's Nobel Prize recipient in chemistry, for illustrating how transcription works. It's a genetic copying process that enables organisms such as humans to make use of their genetic information.

Baillie and Kornberg worked together as postdoctoral fellows under Nobel laureate Francis Crick in Cambridge, England. Barry Honda, an SFU molecular biologist who also did his postdoctoral fellowship in Cambridge, later followed in Kornberg's footsteps.

Honda is an expert on transcription and the structure of chromosomes.

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