Cech, Thomas Robert

Cech, Thomas Robert chĕk [key], 1947–, American microbiologist, b. Chicago, grad. Univ. of California, Berkeley. A professor at the Univ. of Colorado, he discovered that RNA could function as enzymes; it was previously thought that enzymatic activity was only possible in protein molecules. His discovery has a potential use in fighting viral infections. For this work, Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sidney Altman , who independently made the same discovery. In 2000 he became president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a philanthropic organization that is an important underwriter of biomedical research and education.

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