Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Ph.D., FW ’77, Sc.D.H. ’91, the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, was one of three American scientists to share the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.”
Blackburn began her research on telomerase while she was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. She shares the Nobel award with Carol W. Greider, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins, and Jack W. Szostak, Ph.D., of Harvard, both of whom shared the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with her in 2006.
The citation from the Nobel Foundation stated, “This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded to three scientists who have solved a major problem in biology: how the chromosomes can be copied in a complete way during cell divisions and how they are protected against degradation. The Nobel Laureates have shown that the solution is to be found in the ends of the chromosomes—the telomeres—and in an enzyme that forms them—telomerase.”
Blackburn earned her doctorate from the University of Cambridge in England in 1975 and did her postdoctoral work at Yale from 1975 to 1977 in molecular and cellular biology in the laboratory of another 2006 Lasker honoree, Joseph G. Gall, Ph.D. ’52.