Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative

Venki Ramakrishnan received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Baroda University in India in 1971 and his PhD in physics from Ohio University in 1976. He then studied biology for two years at the University of California, San Diego before beginning his postdoctoral work with Peter Moore at Yale University. Since 1999, he has been a group leader at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009 and was the president of the Royal Society from 2015-2020.

In 2000, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its complexes with ligands and antibiotics. This work led to insights into how the ribosome “reads” the genetic code, as well as antibiotic function. Ramakrishnan’s lab subsequently determined high-resolution structures of functional complexes of the entire ribosome at various stages along the translational pathway, which led to insights into its role in protein synthesis during decoding, peptidyl transfer, translocation and termination. More recently his laboratory has been applying cryoelectron microscopy to study eukaryotic and mitochondrial translation.

Ramakrishnan is the author of Gene Machine, a very frank popular memoir about the race for the structure of the ribosome.

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