Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2009
She was born in Tasmania (Australia) in 1948. Her scientific path was encouraged by what she read about science when she was a teenager and especially, the biography of Marie Curie, written by her daughter Ève Curie. She graduated in Biochemistry from the Universiy of Melbourne. In 1975 she married John Sedat, also a molecular scientist and did her PH. D. in Cambridge (England) under the supervision of Fred Sanger, twice a Nobel Laurate in Chemistry (1958-1980).
In 1978 she carried out her postdoctoral research with Joe Gall at Yale University and with him she was able to sequence the DNA of the final zone of the chromosome, called telomere, in the protozoan Tetrahymena. Later she moved to the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and together with Jack Szostak, she proved that telomeres protected the ends of the chromosomes in the process of cell division, preventing their disintegration.
In May, 1984, she accepted Carol Greider, a young biologist who wanted to do postgraduate work with her, as part of her team. Six months later, they discovered the enzyme responsible for telomere elongation, which they called telomerase.
Elisabeth Balckburn, a pioneer in the study of telomeres, has received countless awards which add to the Nobel Prize in Medicine, which she received in 2009 together with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak. Other honours she has received are the Eli Lilly Prize in Microbiology (1988), the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology (1990), The Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2006), L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (2008) and the Fernández-Cruz Foundation Prize (2015).
Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2009
She was born on April 15, 1961 in San Diego (USA). Dyslexia made her learning difficult and marked her tenacity: I had many problems at school and had remedial lessons; I thought I was stupid. In 1983 she got her degree in Biology at the University of California in Santa Barbara and, in spite of her excellent curiculum vitae, she was rejected by several universities due to bad results at test scores. At the University of California in Berkeley she was interviewed and accepted. In May 1984, she started her PH. D. on the elongation of telomeres with Elizabeth Blackburn.
At Christmas she discovered the enzyme telomerase, which prevents the degradation of telomeres. Six months later, Elizabeth Blackburn and herself were able to isolate the enzime and demonstrate that it was composed of RNA and protein.
In 1987 she obtained her doctorate in Molecular Biology and a year later, she started her postdoctoral research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York where she cloned the RNA component of telomerase.
In 1993 the Spanish researcher Maria Blasco joined her team to research on telomeres and telomerase, achieving important advances in this field. In 1997 Greider moved to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she continues her research on telomere dysfunction and the relation between telomeres and the growth of tumors.
In 1996, president Clinton appointed her for the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, post she served until 2001.
She has received many awards, as: Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003), the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research (2006) and the Nobel Prize for Medicine, shared with Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak, in 2009.