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Thomas R. Cech, Ph.D., distinguished professor and director, University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Dr. Cech and his research group announced that an RNA molecule from Tetrahymena, a single-celled pond organism, cut and rejoined chemical bonds in the complete absence of proteins. This discovery of self-splicing RNA provided the first exception to the long-held belief that biological reactions are always catalyzed by proteins. In addition, it has been heralded as providing a new, plausible scenario for the origin of life; because RNA can be both an information-carrying molecule and a catalyst, perhaps the first self-reproducing system consisted of RNA alone.
Dr. Cech earned his B.A. in chemistry from Grinnell College in 1970. He obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and then engaged in postdoctoral research in the department of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1978 he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado Boulder, where he became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 1988 and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1990. In 2000, Dr. Cech moved to Maryland as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2009, Dr. Cech returned to full-time research and teaching at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he also directs the BioFrontiers Institute.
Among the many national and international honors that recognize Dr. Cech's work are the Heineken Prize of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the National Medal of Science. In 1987, Dr. Cech was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and also awarded a lifetime professorship by the American Cancer Society.
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- Harold Varmus, M.D.
- Dawn Thomas
- (646) 962-7254
- presented by The Meyer Cancer Center Seminar Series