Harvard Molecular Biologists Receive Prizes for Research

The French Academy of Sciences has awarded the Charles-Leopold Mayer Prize to two Harvard professors for their work in molecular biology.

Dr. Walter Gilbert '53, American Cancer Society Professor of Molecular Biology and Dr. Mark S. Ptashne, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, have pioneered in work which shows "how genes are turned on and off," one of Ptashne's assistants said yesterday.

Relationships

The professors will split the $45,000 prize with Dr. Evelyn Witkin of Rutgers who was named along with them.

Gilbert uses recombinant DNA methods to try to understand the relationship between certain DNA sites (operators) and the proteins (repressors) which control their production.

Gilbert, who last week won the New York Academy of Sciences' Louis and Bert Freedman Award for Research in Biochemistry, has contributed much original work to the study of the genetic control mechanism and has also developed a widely-used technique to sequence long strings of DNA.

Citation

The New York Academy of Sciences said in its citation, "This method is of such simplicity and power that the entire primary sequence of genes can now be easily worked out."

Ptashne, now on a sabbatical leave of a year in Cambridge, England, has been studying the same mechanism of gene control on a model bacterial virus. Ptashne is studying , at a molecular level, "how various control proteins act to control the expression of genes, "Robert T. Sauer, an assistant in Ptashne's laboratory, said yesterday.