Nobel Prizes and Laureates

Nobel Prizes and Laureates

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009
Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, Jack W. Szostak

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Elizabeth H. Blackburn - Banquet Speech

Elizabeth H. Blackburn's speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2009

Elizabeth H. Blackburn delivering her banquet speech
Elizabeth H. Blackburn delivering her banquet speech.
Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2009
Photo: Orasisfoto

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of my two co-awardees, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak, and myself, we want to convey our thanks and appreciation to the Karolinska Institutet and to the Nobel Foundation for this very great award. We each feel privileged and deeply honored to be recognized by the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The journeys that have brought each of us here have been long and varied: they range from traveling from Tasmania, Australia, to study in the UK and then in the USA in my case, from the UK to Canada to the USA in Jack's case, and from California and then later to New York and Baltimore in Carol's case. Similarly, our scientific journeys have also taken us across a wide spectrum of biology. Why? Because we believe that basic science research is the key to continued advances in, and applications to medicine. Yet biology sometimes reveals its fundamental principles through what may seem at first to be arcane and bizarre.

Consider the tiny pond organism Tetrahymena thermophila – the key to our understanding telomeres and our being able to discover telomerase. I have to tell you about this organism because it is so fascinating – not only does it have many more tiny chromosomes than most organisms, but also, I cannot resist telling you, is has not a mere two sexes as we do, but SEVEN sexes – so who knows what is going on in the water under the still dark surfaces of ponds! And we should not forget our gratitude also to the humble bakers' and brewers' yeast - which also, of course, provide us with delicious bread and enjoyable drinks! All three of us believe in the value of basic science as the source of ever deeper understanding and appreciation of our amazing world, an appreciation which is an essential and beautiful aspect of our culture. And, if we had not been able to use these seemingly oddball organisms because of the advantages they offered as experimental systems for biological research, I don't know when we would have learned about telomeres and telomerase. And sometimes, having the freedom to do novel experiments, as we did, sometimes with obscure creatures, is important. Our early experiments were long shots: but there are times when one should just try something out to see what will happen – even if it does sound a bit crazy! Because our findings have led to medical implications that reach into the realms of human diseases and aging.

Lastly, I and my co-awardees have many people we would like to thank: our families and our scientific teachers, some of whom are here tonight, and our colleagues. And our wholehearted thanks from all three of us go out to all the people of Sweden for this wonderful honor.


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2009
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