Dr. Roger Kornberg was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription.” He determined how DNA’s genetic blueprint is read and used to direct the process for protein manufacture.
Dr. Kornberg carried out a significant part of the research leading to this prize at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), a Department of Energy (DOE)-supported research facility located at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Dr. Kornberg also carried out research at the Advanced Light Source, another DOE-funded synchrotron light source located at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Dr. Kornberg was the first to create an actual picture of how transcription works at a molecular level in the important group of organisms called eukaryotes (organisms whose cells have a well-defined nucleus). Humans and other mammals are included in this group, as is ordinary yeast. For cells to produce working proteins—a process necessary for life—information stored in DNA must first be transcribed into a form readable by the cell’s internal machinery.
Dr. Kornberg’s studies have provided an understanding at the atomic level of how the process of transcription occurs and also how it is controlled. Because the regulation of transcription underlies all aspects of cellular metabolism,
Dr. Kornberg’s research also helps explain how the process sometimes goes awry, leading to birth defects, cancer and other diseases.