More Prizes for Genome Research

The 2006 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to an American scientist from Stanford University Roger Kornberg for his pioneering work in RNA transcription — the process through which “information stored in genes is copied and transferred to other parts of the cell. While dioxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the blueprint for life, ribonucleic acid (RNA) is the actual builder that decodes the blueprint. Although all cells carry a full set of DNA code, each cell must activate, or express, different genes to do their specialised work. Kornberg apparently figured out how this happens, using X-ray crystallography to ‘photograph’ RNA-polymerase, the molecule used by RNA to read and transcribe the DNA code. This groundbreaking work will help researchers better understand the process of transcription, where even minute flaws could lead to illnesses like cancer.” Dr. Kornberg’s father won a Nobel Prize in 1959, and as the Chicago Tribune points out this is not the first time that parent and child have won Nobel Prizes. Can there be truth in the saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree?

Meanwhile, the X Prize Foundation, which offered a $10 million prize for private spaceflight, announced that it will award $10 million to the first group that is able to decode the genomes of 100 people in 10 days. Such a machine, which is estimated to be only five years away, would pave the way to individualized medicine, according to various reports. The editorial board of Scientfic American questions the “cash for breakthoughs” approach.