Photo: J. Mottern
Craig C. Mello
Born: 19 October 1960, New Haven, CT, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discovery of RNA interference - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA."
Prize share: 1/2
RNA has multiple functions. Among these, "messenger RNA" carries genetic information from DNA to protein formation. RNA is often a single-stranded spiral, but also exists in double-stranded form. In 1998, Craig Mello and Andrew Fire discovered through their studies of the roundworm C. elegans a phenomenon dubbed "RNA interference". In this phenomenon, double-stranded RNA blocks messenger RNA so that certain genetic information is not converted during protein formation. This "silences" these genes, i.e. renders them inactive. The phenomenon plays an important regulatory role within a genome.