Sulston, Sir John Edward

Sulston, Sir John Edward, 1942–2018, British molecular biologist, Ph.D. Cambridge, 1966. He was staff scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, from 1969 to 1992, when he became founding director (until 2000) of what is now the Wellcome Sanger Institute, also in Cambridge. Sulston received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with Sydney Brenner and H. Robert Horvitz. Following Brenner's establishment of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for genetic studies, Sulston developed techniques to study cell divisions in the species from the fertilized egg to the adult. In 1976 he published a map of the cell lineage for a part of the developing nervous system and demonstrated that the processes of cell division and differentiation do not vary from one individual to another. Sulston subsequently discovered that a genetic program directs cell death to maintain the correct balance of cells in the tissues as new cells are generated. Horvitz built on Sulston's work to discover and characterize key genes governing programmed cell death. The combined work of the three researchers has had important implications for disease control and treatment. While director of the Sanger Institute he led British participation in the Human Genome Project. Sulston subsequently was chairman (2008–18) of the Institute for Science, Ethics, and Innovation at the Univ. of Manchester, England. He was knighted in 2001. With Georgina Ferry he wrote The Common Thread (2002), about the Human Genome Project.

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