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NIH Office of the Director (OD)

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

NIH News Media Branch

Press Statement from NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
NIH Grantee Wins 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Discovering How Genes Produce Proteins

The 2006 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to long-time NIH grantee, Roger D. Kornberg, Ph.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine for his studies of how genetic information is transcribed into RNA, which is translated to make proteins, molecules essential to life.

NIH is proud that its sustained support of this research led to the findings honored in today’s Nobel Prize. The NIH components that funded the prize-winning scientist are the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Cancer Institute. Over 37 years, NIH has provided more than $24 million to support the research of Kornberg.

If the transcription process stops, genetic information is no longer transferred. “Illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and various other kinds of inflammation are linked to disturbances in the transcription process,” said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. “Understanding this process in more detail may provide researchers with the needed tools to develop new treatments for diseases.”

“Through decades of elegant, state-of-the art studies in biochemistry and structural biology, Roger Kornberg has revealed the mechanism underlying how cells transcribe genetic information,” said Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., director of the NIGMS, which has funded Kornberg's research since 1979. “This knowledge sheds light on a fundamental process that is key to health and disease. The achievement also demonstrates the power of innovative approaches to probe the many complicated molecular assemblies essential to life.”

“The research honored by this Nobel Prize offers an exquisitely detailed picture of a fundamental biological process intrinsic to human life. This knowledge gives medical researchers a springboard from which they can investigate and better understand many illnesses connected to disruptions in this basic life process,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

“I am most pleased that Roger Kornberg has been recognized for his critical contributions to our understanding of the fundamental process of transcription,” said John E. Niederhuber, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute and a former professor at the Stanford School of Medicine. “Cancer is a disease of genetic alterations, and Roger’s research is essential to the development of a new era of highly targeted cancer therapy.”

Kornberg’s father, Arthur Kornberg, was also an NIH grantee and shared the 1959 Nobel Prize in medicine for studies of how genetic information is transferred from one DNA molecule to another. The Kornbergs are the eighth parent-child pair to win Nobel Prizes.

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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