September 8, 2006

Nobel laureate debuts lecture series

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Nobel laureate debuts lecture series

Sydney Brenner, D.Phil.
(Photo courtesy of Paul Fetters and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Sydney Brenner, D.Phil.
(Photo courtesy of Paul Fetters and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner, D.Phil., will launch the new Vanderbilt Discovery Lecture Series at 4 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 14, with a discussion of “The Next 100 Years of Biology.”

Brenner's lecture also is part of a celebration of the 100th birthday of another Nobel laureate and genetics pioneer, Max Delbrück.

The celebration will begin at 2 p.m. in room 208 Light Hall at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It will be followed by a reception at 5 p.m. in the Light Hall lobby. The event is free and open to the public.

Brenner, a distinguished professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Robert Horvitz and John Sulston for their discoveries regarding the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.

Among his many notable discoveries, Brenner established the existence of messenger RNA and demonstrated how the order of amino acids in proteins is determined. He also conducted pioneering work with the roundworm, C. elegans, a model organism now used widely to study genetics. His recent work involves studying vertebrate gene and genome evolution.

Delbrück, who died in 1981, shared the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Alfred Hershey and Salvador Luria for their discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and genetic structure of viruses. Their work, according to the Nobel Foundation, “set the solid foundations on which modern molecular biology rests.”

A German theoretical physicist with an interest in biology, Delbrück spent seven years — from 1940-1947 — at Vanderbilt University as a faculty member in physics. Thanks to additional support from the Rockefeller Foundation, he was able to pursue research on bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) in a Buttrick Hall laboratory.

Delbrück's groundbreaking collaborations with Hershey and Luria took place during the summers at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y. After the war, he accepted a professorship at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, where he remained until his death.

In addition to Brenner, the centenary celebration will feature:

Bonnie L. Bassler, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, who will discuss “High-Fidelity Communication among Bacteria,” and

Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D., director of the Simons Center for Systems Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who will discuss “Nucleotide Sequence Information Stored in the Genome.”

For more information about the celebration, click on