Richard J. Roberts
Born: 6 September 1943, Derby, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: New England Biolabs, Beverly, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries of split genes."
Prize share: 1/2
An organism's genes lie within the chain of nucleotides found inside DNA molecules. The genetic information contained within DNA is transferred to "messenger" RNA, and is then converted during the formation of proteins. An RNA molecule's chain contains both elements needed for protein formation, exons, and parts that are not needed, introns. In 1977 and independently of one another, Richard Roberts and Phillip Sharp both successfully demonstrated how RNA can be divided up into introns and exons, after which the exons can be joined together. This can occur in different ways, giving a gene the potential to form a number of different proteins.