Phillip A. Sharp
Born: 6 June 1944, Falmouth, KY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Center for Cancer Research, Cambridge, 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, Phillip Sharp and Richard Roberts 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.