John E. Sulston
Born: 27 March 1942, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'"
Prize share: 1/3
At the beginning of an organism's life, the number of cells it contains increases rapidly. New cells are formed throughout its lifetime, but cells also die in order to maintain a balance in the number of cells in existence. This process is regulated by genes and is called programmed cell death. In 1976, John Sulston described in detail how the cells of the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans divided and matured, and showed that certain cells' deaths were a part of the organism's normal development. He also discovered that the first mutation in a gene that is active in the cell-death process.