New Haven, Conn. Yale biophysicist Thomas A. Steitz has received one of the four 2007 Gairdner International Awards, among the most prestigious awards in science, for his groundbreaking work on the structure and function of the large subunit of the ribosome and the structural basis for the action of antibiotics that target the ribosome.
"The 2007 awards reflect the importance of basic discoveries that lead to a better understanding of human disease and the development of treatments and cures to alleviate them," said John Dirks, President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation.
Thomas A. Steitz, Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and Harry F. Noller of the University of California at Santa Cruz were honored for their studies on the structure and function of the ribosome, demonstrating that a step in bacterial protein synthesis is an RNA-catalyzed reaction. This step is inhibited by many antibiotics, and understanding the structural basis of the function points the way to the development of new antibiotics.
"A major health consequence of the increasing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria is that two million people every year get infections from them in hospital facilities and 90,000 per year die from them," said Steitz.
His close collaboration with Yale faculty colleague, Peter Moore and interactions with William Jorgenson led to the establishment of a company, Rib-X Pharmaceutical, Inc., which is using this knowledge of the structures of the large ribosomal subunit and its antibiotic complexes to create new classes of antibiotics. In just five years, Rib
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