Transcription and Translation

Nobel for RNA Interference!

We all thought that it was a bit early, but VERY deserved. Also can I add this:

The Daily Transcript 1: Thomson Scientific 0.

For anyone not in the basic biomedical sciences, the two biggest revolutions in the past 10 years have been RNA interference (RNAi) and fluorescent protein technology. The two techniques allowed us to perform genetics in higher eukaryotes and to visualize proteins over time. When both came on the scene it was truly amazing. People first gossiped about both technologies and the buzz spread fast. Within months everyone was using the technique to probe their field of enquiry further. It was like someone came to Thailand and started selling cellphones to the average citizen who didn’t even own a land line. The next day everyone is text messaging and couldn’t imagine life in any other way. In addition, Ambrose (who could have got it as well) showed that our own cells (well at first worms, but it was true for humans too) make their own substrates for RNAi and use it to regulate the expression of our own genes. Our genome was expanded. Now with the latest bioinformatic info, we are coming to realize that we make many little RNA bits that perform all sorts of functions.

OK now lets see if fluorescent protein technologies gets the Chemistry.

I’ll post a brief history of RNAi later today.

P.S. Fire and Mello got it and everyone expected this, but Rich Jorgensen or Victor Ambrose should have got the third spot. More on this in the next post.


  1. #1 HI
    October 2, 2006

    The reason Victor Ambrose didn’t get it for miRNA was because you would also have to give it to Gary Ruvkun. But that would make it four people instead of three.

  2. #2 BTM
    October 2, 2006

    Okay, I’ll give you that you beat Thomson Scientific but I would add that RNAi was an obvious eventual choice. Definitely is a bit early.

    The Nobel link:

  3. #3 HI
    October 2, 2006

    Regarding the chemistry prize, it can go to the ribosome work as someone pointed out. (I agree that it is more likely to win the chemistry prize than the medicine prize if anything.) Also, how about the Southern blot (plus maybe DNA microarray)?

  4. #4 apalazzo
    October 2, 2006


    Yeah we were just talking about that. I guess if they could give 4 Nobels then Ambrose and Ruvkin would have got it.

  5. #5 Bartholomew Cubbins
    October 2, 2006

    To pooh-pooh one of the recipients though, I will say Andrew Fire gives a completely uninsightful and worthless lecture (as of 12 months ago). His “review paper” talk was devoid of data and designed to simply drum up the worldly importance of RNAi and his place in the discovery. Dude, we’ve already read your reviews. You did something cool last century, what’s new?

    Re: ambrose
    Agreed. However the man never stood a chance simply because he is at slow research school and not a member of HHMI. The unfortunate truth is that someone has to be lobbying for you to win this prize. Brilliance and scientific passion mixed with some luck just aren’t enough.

    I think it’s obnoxious that the miRNA people got screwed. I wonder why it was easier to shut it out rather than choose one representative? My vote would have been Ruvkin and Ambrose, but it’s also hard to argue against what Bartel has done with the science (blown it right open).

    The ribsosome field is also a close one (Steitz, Moore, Noller, Ramakrishnan). If Yonath gets the nod then the committee a) is comprised of idiots, and b) deserves what they’re going to get: a 3 hour crap lecture during her 20 minutes-alloted acceptance speech. I’ve seen her booed off a stage by well known scientists. I’m serious.

  6. #6 HI
    October 2, 2006

    I think it is unfair in a way that only three people can get it. Is the contribution by the fourth person in line significantly less than the first three? Deciding who made the most important contributions is subjective anyway. Also, there must be cases where they don’t choose a subject because they find it difficult to narrow down the candidates to three or less, or because one of the candidates has already won a Nobel prize.

    But that’s how prizes work. Also, the Nobel prize is not given for life time achievement. There are many truly great scientists who don’t get it. And there are those who that get lucky.

  7. #7 apalazzo
    October 2, 2006

    BC you’re alive!

    Yeah, Ambrose was first (with regards to miRNA) but Ruvkin has the weight. If Ruvkin gets it they HAD to give to Ambrose, but there was no way that they couldn’t give it to Mello and Fire. So tough luck Vic.

    As for Yonath – yeah I’ve heard bad things about her too. But she was one of the first to get the structure. (And it wasn’t backwards either).

  8. #8 Timon
    October 2, 2006

    Might not microRNAs one day yield their own award?

  9. #9 apalazzo
    October 2, 2006

    miRNA Nobel? Not likely. They gave it to muscle myosin OVER 7 DECADES AGO, and haven’t given any other in the cytoskelatal field since. When you think of it they could have given it for the mechanism of MITOSIS but noway (okay they did give it for the cell cycle but that is different) … kinesin or the other motors, nada … cell motility, zilch!

  10. #10 BTM
    October 3, 2006

    Ooooooh, Alex, have I taught you nothing. Look at the Yonath “structure” paper. Really look! She barely published a structure and it wasn’t much of an improvement over the 5.5ang structure. It was unrefined and was missing over 30% of the molecule outright not too mention the poor fit over the rest of it. I can tell you that without the Ramakrishnan 5.5ang structure she wouldn’t even have had the orientation of the molecule correct. Interesting note, in one of her subsequent revisions of her structure it was found that she had the same user made mutation (ie. someone made a mistake and put a wrong amino acid in the sequence – not sure who ;)) as the Ramakrishnan lab, still, according to her their structure was 100% independent. I like that BC saw her booed off stage, that must have been a great moment. I had to sit in an audience and watch her lie about her structure, it was painful and I was told to suck it up and not make a scene. Oh well. After the Yonath 50S structure I was meeting with some Chemists at a big pharm who couldn’t make sense of her structure in terms of the biology. They were totally perplexed and genuinely upset that it had just made things worse for them. She has yet to get something completely correct and it is pretty sad. She does lobby for herself quite a bit which is really what stirs up the controversy. Invite her for a talk, she’ll come!

    On another note, I’m not sure what Noller deserves it for relative to this discussion. The ‘discovery’ that the ribosome is a ribozyme doesn’t strike me as that big of a deal relative to understanding the detailed mechanism. For that, only Ramakrishnan should get it and then second would be Steitz and Moore.

    Maybe I’m too close…

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.