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Ribosome nobel laureate elected to Royal Society presidency

23 March 2015

By Hannah Somers

Appeared in BioNews 795

Professor Sir Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has been confirmed to succeed Sir Paul Nurse as the President Elect of the Royal Society as of December this year.

Professor Ramakrishnan is currently the deputy director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge, and is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Professor Ramakrishnan was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009, alongside two other scientists, for their work on the structure and function of the ribosome at the molecular level.

Speaking to Nature News about his new position, Professor Ramakrishnan said: 'It's a great honour. Paul [Nurse] has been an articulate and forceful advocate for science, and I can only do my best to continue that'.

The Indian-born structural biologist gained his Bachelor's degree in Physics from Baroda University, India before moving to the USA to complete his PhD at Ohio University. He studied biology at several US institutions, and became a biophysicist at the University of Utah, before moving to the UK in 1999. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2003.

Professor Ramakrishnan's Nobel work in biophysics elicited information about the structure and function of the ribosome, the cell machinery responsible for the translation of DNA into proteins

Understanding the structure of the ribosome is providing scientists with information to design new antibiotics, a strategy which many national bodies, including the CDC in the USA and the UK Government, have recognised as important action to combat antibiotic resistance. Ribosomes are the target for several antibiotics such as erythromycin, which blocks the channel through which a chain of amino acids are released from the ribosome. This prevents bacteria producing new proteins, stopping growth of the organism and the infection.

The Royal Society was founded in 1660 and acts as scientific advisor to the British Government. Other scientists to have held the President's position include Samuel Pepys, Isaac Newton and Ernest Rutherford.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
BBC News | 18 March 2015
 
The Huffington Post India | 19 March 2015
 
Nature | 07 October 2009
 
The Royal Society | 18 March 2015
 
Nature | 18 March 2015
 

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