John E. Sulston

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John E. Sulston (undated)

Sir John Edward Sulston (born March 27, 1942 in Fulmer in Buckinghamshire , United Kingdom , † March 6, 2018 ) was a British biologist . In 2002, as a developmental biologist with Sydney Brenner and H. Robert Horvitz, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “Research in the field of the genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death ”.


Sulston was the son of an Anglican clergyman. He showed an early interest in science and attended a private school in Northwood on a scholarship. From 1960 he studied with a scholarship at the University of Cambridge (Pembroke College) biology and organic chemistry with a bachelor's degree in 1963 and a doctorate ( Ph. D. ) in nucleotide chemistry with Colin Reese in 1966. As a post-doctoral student he was with Leslie Orgel at the Salk Institute in San Diego, where he returned to biology under the influence of Orgel, Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick . From 1969 he conducted research at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge, where he worked in Brenner's group on the neurobiology and the development process of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans from the fertilized egg cell to the adult individual. From 1992 to 2000 he was director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, which was involved on the British side in the Human Genome Project . Suston turned against the commercialization of genome sequencing, for example with the patenting of individual genes, such as that operated by Craig Venter . Sulston referred to himself as an "anti-capitalist" in that he considered all companies involved in the commercialization of genome analysis to be completely redundant. Genomic research and analysis should be reserved for academic institutions and should not be commercialized. The resulting genome data should generally be freely accessible to all researchers from around the world and should not be restricted by patent rights. Sulston was therefore seen as an outstanding exponent of the open access movement. The serious diseases in Africa and other developing countries, Sulston said, could not be addressed on a capitalist basis. There is no market for this because there is no money to be made from it.

In 2012 he became a director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester .

Sulston created a complete neuron map of C. elegans with Horvitz , determined the complete cell lineage of the embryonic development of C. elegans and was significantly involved in the sequencing of its genome, in a collaboration between Cambridge and the University of Washington. This was the first complete sequencing of an animal in 1998.

Sulston was married from 1966 and had two children.

Awards (selection)


Web links

Commons : John E. Sulston  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John Sulston (1942-2018) - Founding Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute . Wellcome Sanger Institute obituary, March 9, 2018.
  2. Gisela Baumgart: Sulston, Sir (since 2001) John E. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 1367 f .; here: p. 1367.
  3. ^ Gisela Baumgart: Sulston, Sir (since 2001) John E. 2005, p. 1367.
  4. Helen Briggs: Sir John Sulston human genome pioneer dies. BBC News, March 9, 2018, accessed March 9, 2018 .
  5. Sulston, Horvitz, Post-embryonic cell lineages of the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans , Developmental Biology, Vol. 56, 1977, pp. 110-156
  6. Sulston, E. Schierenberg, JG White, JN Thomson: The embryonic cell lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans , Developmental Biology, Volume 100, 1983, pp. 64-119
  7. Sulston, Horvitz Post-embryonic cell lineages of the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans , Developmental Biology, Vol. 56, 1977, pp. 110-156
  8. C. elegans Sequencing Concortium: Genome Sequence of the Nematode C. elegans: A Platform for Investigating Biology , Science, Volume 282, 1998, pp. 2012-2018