Thomas R. Cech life and biography

Thomas R. Cech picture, image, poster

Thomas R. Cech biography

Date of birth : 1947-12-08
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Chicago, Illinois, United States
Nationality : American
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-09-20
Credited as : biochemist, Nobel Prize for Chemistry, ribonucleic acid RNA

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Thomas R. Cech is an American biochemist which is also a Nobel Laureate in chemistry.

In a 1982 experiment with the protozoa Tetrahymena thermophilia, biochemist Thomas R. Cech discovered that ribonucleic acid (RNA) could act as its own catalyst, stimulating its own chemical reactions. Until then, scientists had believed that RNA was only a carrier of genetic information, so Cech and his team spent the next year double-checking and scrutinizing their results for a hidden protein "contaminant". His original finding was startling but eventually proven correct, showing that RNA can trigger the biological reactions previously thought to be catalyzed solely by proteins. Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Sidney Altman, whose separate research led to the same discovery almost concurrently.

The work of Thomas R. Cech has revolutionized the way in which scientists look at RNA and at proteins. Up to the time of Cech's discoveries in 1981 and 1982, it had been thought that genetic coding, stored in the DNA of the nucleus, was imprinted or transcribed onto RNA molecules. These RNA molecules, it was believed, helped transfer the coding onto proteins produced in the ribosomes. The DNA/RNA nexus was thus the information center of the cell, while protein molecules in the form of enzymes were the workhorses, catalyzing the thousands of vital chemical reactions that occur in the cell. Conventional wisdom held that the two functions were separate--that there was a delicate division of labor. Cech and his colleagues at the University of Colorado established, however, that this picture of how RNA functions was incorrect; they proved that in the absence of other enzymes RNA acts as its own catalyst. It was a discovery that reverberated throughout the scientific community, leading not only to new technologies in RNA engineering but also to a revised view of the evolution of life. Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Sidney Altman at Yale University for their work regarding the role of RNA in cell reactions.


ACS Pfizer Award 1985
Guggenheim Fellowship 1985
NAS Award in Molecular Biology 1987
Heineken Prize for Medicine 1988
Lasker Award 1988
Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1989 (with Sidney Altman)
National Medal of Science 1995
CHF Othmer Gold Medal 2007
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (2008-)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute President (2000-08)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (1988-2000)
American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1988
American Cancer Society
National Academy of Sciences 1987
National Cancer Institute Fellowship, 1975-77

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