Dr. Jack Szostak of the Department of Molecular Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his original contributions to our understanding of the processes of life and disease. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize to Dr. Szostak "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase". With Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and Carol Greider, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, he demonstrated the existence of telomeres and predicted the enzyme telomerase.
''The discoveries by Blackburn, Greider and Szostak have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies,'' the prize committee said in its citation. They solved the mystery of how a chromosome can be copied completely during cell division and remain free of errors during the process. They showed how organisms use telomerase to prevent the genome from degrading during division. His work made possible subsequent studies linking telomerase to cancer and age-related diseases in humans.
Dr. Szostak has also received the 2008 Heineken Prize and the 2006 Lasker Award for his accomplishments in basic medical research for his work on telomerase. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute fellow, the Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. His current research is on the origin of life.
Jack Szostak with members of his laboratory.
Front row, kneeling/sitting: Itay Budin, Shenglong Zhang, Na Zhang, Ting Zhu, Mathangy Krishnamurthy.
Standing: Trista Marie Talbot, Sam Bjork, Matthew Powner, Rafael Bruckner, Alonso Ricardo, Ben Hueberger, Sylvia Tobe, Pam Svec, Simon Trevino, Jack Szostak, Jason Schrum, Yollete Guillen Schlippe, Chi-Wang Lin, Katarzyna Adamala, Mark Elenko, Craig Blain.