A giant in the field of modern molecular biology


Nobel laureate gives public lecture at McGill on May 5. One of the founders of modern molecular biology: Philip A. Sharp.

Described as a giant in the field of modern molecular biology, Dr Philip A. Sharp will speak at McGill on Friday, May 5, at 4 pm, in the Palmer Howard Amphitheatre of the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building (3655 Drummond, 6th floor). His talk, "Shaping the genome: RNA splicing and gene structure/RNA interference and gene repeats," is being held under the auspices of the prestigious Foundations of Medical Science lecture series. McGill Dean of Medicine Abraham Fuks points out that this lecture series, originally established by Rose Wiselberg, is intended "to demonstrate to the media, to our own students and to the general public the way in which basic biomedical research lays the foundation for the future of clinical medicine." Everyone is welcome to attend.

Recipient of the 1993 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, with Dr Richard J. Roberts, Philip Sharp is head of the Department of Biology and Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Sharp and Roberts earned the Nobel prize for work that fundamentally changed scientists’ understanding of the structure of genes. The two men made the independent discovery that some of the genes of higher organisms are "split" or present in distinct segments along the DNA molecule.

McGill’s Dr Fuks explains, "Genes are arranged in pieces along the chromosomes and when the messenger RNA molecule is produced from DNA, it must be processed to make it "legible." The way in which this processing or editing -- called RNA splicing -- takes place was originally described by our guest speaker, Dr Phillip Sharp, and helped show the function of important viruses, as well how human genes encode their protein products."

More recently, Dr Sharp’s lab has turned its attention to understanding how RNA molecules act as switches to turn genes on and off in addition to their role as carriers of the genomic message.

Dr Fuks concludes, "The end of the twentieth century will be remembered for the sequencing of the human genome. Dr Sharp’s work will help us understand how the genome is "interpreted" and controlled to result in human development."