News Release

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

NIH Grantee Wins 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Discovering How Genes Produce Proteins

Press Statement from NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.

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.

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