Geneticist Sydney Brenner dies, who turned the little legend of a small worm

The South African biologist Sydney Brenner.

Sydney Brenner was a founding member of the European Molecular Biology Organization, EMBO.Credit: Andrew Cutraro / Redux / eyevine

The pioneering molecular biologist Sydney Brenner has died at the age of 92. Among Brenner's most notable achievements was Caenorhabditis elegans The nematode worm became a model system for the investigation of human diseases in the sixties and seventies, which unleashed a new field of research.

For this feat, he shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2002 with biologists John Sulston and Robert Horvitz. Brenner chose the worm because it was more complex than other well-known organisms, such as bacteria, but still, it's simple enough to study it in depth. C. elegans Nowadays it is still widely used in biology: the PubMed research database contains more than 9,000 articles published in the last decade that include a reference to the worm.

Brenner also co-discovered the messenger RNA. These intermediate molecules transmit the genetic code of a cell, which is written in DNA, to the cellular machinery that translates the messenger RNA into a protein. And, along with Francis Crick and others, he discovered that the genetic code of DNA is made up of a series of triplet codons, each encoding the individual amino acids that make up a particular protein.

Brenner, born in South Africa in 1927, spent much of his career in the United Kingdom, earning his doctorate from the University of Oxford. Later, he became director of the prestigious Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge.

In 1996, he crossed the Atlantic to found the Institute of Molecular Sciences in Berkeley, California, and in 2000 he became a distinguished research professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

For the past 35 years, he maintained close ties with Singapore, where he was an honorary citizen, and helped develop his medical research capacity. His death was announced on April 5 by the national science and technology agency of Singapore, A * STAR.

In 1964, Brenner co-founded the European Molecular Biology Organization, now known as EMBO, in Heidelberg, Germany, which has become an academy of more than 1,300 biologists and influences the direction of life sciences research on the continent. .

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