FeaturedTopics Nobel Prize

10/04/06

Quotes from colleagues: Comments on Nobel Prize winner Andrew Fire

“Professor Fire's contributions to his field have been of enormous importance and the recognition by the Nobel committee is a remarkable achievement at this early point in his career. The RNA research of Professors Fire and Mello represents the very best of the collaborative nature of university scholarship. The fact that this basic discovery is already impacting the development of new therapies is a wonderful reminder of the importance of fundamental research. Stanford is indeed lucky to have a scientist of Professor Fire's caliber on its faculty. I offer him warm congratulations on behalf of the Stanford community.”— John L. Hennessy, president of Stanford University

"This is an extraordinary achievement for Andy Fire and Craig Mello, for science and for Stanford. It serves as an affirmation of the importance of basic fundamental research that yields new insights into important biological mechanisms. Such discoveries not only elucidate new understanding of human biology, but can unfold into new directions that can potentially translate into discoveries of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for a variety of human disorders."— Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine

“The beauty of this is that the work essentially happened in real time. The discovery and characterization of these RNAs is fairly recent, it’s remarkably fast. It’s just gorgeous work that stands a chance to really change medicine, aside from a remarkable tool for biology.”— David C. Schwartz, PhD, the Kellett Professor of Genetics and Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a longtime friend of Fire’s.  

“This honor underscores the fundamental role that basic research plays in advancing our understanding of health. The unanticipated discovery of a basic biological process that can silence genes took the biomedical research community by storm. RNAi is both a powerful tool for studying gene function and a promising approach to treating a host of human diseases, from macular degeneration and cancer to flu and other infections.”— Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

From the Associated Press: Andrew Fire and Craig Mello’s research helped shed new light on a complicated process that had confused researchers for years. "It was like opening the blinds in the morning," she said. "Suddenly you can see everything clearly."— Erna Moller, a member of the Nobel committee  

From the BBC News: The fact that the work had been recognized by the Nobel committee just eight years after it was published indicated just how important it had been. "It is very unusual for a piece of work to completely revolutionize the whole way we think about biological processes and regulation, but this has opened up a whole new field in biology." He added that  previously RNA had been thought to have very little role in regulating genes; Mello and Fire's work shows that it plays a key role in gene regulation. — Professor Nick Hastie, director of the Medical Research Council's Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, UK

“Every one of us at Carnegie is thrilled for Andy, for the institution, and for the promise this discovery has for advancing our understanding of basic molecular processes and helping cure disease. Andy’s work is a vivid example of how Carnegie’s commitment to freedom of research can yield extraordinary results for humanity.”— Richard A. Meserve, president of the Carnegie Institution, where Fire conducted his RNAi research

“It (this research) is fairly profound. It’s something that living organisms use to control life processes. That’s why everybody was so excited about this. It’s one of those things that describe how life works. This is a basic discovery that has huge implications for biomedical science. It’s sort of a rage actually.
“He’s just such a classic scientist, incredibly modest. He’s a great guy. We recruited him here three years ago, and we felt really lucky to get him. He’s one of these people you love to work with — on committees, teaching, in seminars — just because he’s so bright. He thinks about  things in a deeper and almost an unusual way. He’s very focused on understanding how things work. . . . It’s really fun being around smart colleagues, but especially around smart colleagues who aren’t full of themselves.” — Richard Myers, chair of the Department of Genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine

“He is a very humble, and thoughtful person who has not sought this kind of recognition at all. It couldn’t have happened to more deserving scientist. . . . He perceived early on this research could be applied to disease pathogenesis. The credit wholly goes to the imagination, persistence and insight of these two remarkable individuals.”— Stephen Galli,  chair of the Department of Pathology at the Stanford University School of Medicine

From the Associated Press: ''This has been such a revolution in biomedicine, everybody is using it. 'It's so important that people almost take it for granted already, even though it was discovered fairly recently.'' — Thomas Cech, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for which Mello is an investigator

From Reuters: "The discovery is already being used in clinical trials for viral diseases, for eye diseases, for cardiovascular metabolic diseases. But even more importantly, it is being used in every drug industry as a fundamental research tool." And it also has "invaded" laboratories worldwide.
Nobel prizes are often granted to winning work decades later, but the selection of Mello and Fire was occurred in less than a decade due to the clear importance of their findings. "Sometimes it is immediately apparent to the Nobel committee that a discovery is a really fundamental one."— Bertil Fredholm, a member of the prize-giving Nobel Assembly of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute

From the Times (London): "We award the discovery of a fundamental principle. That principle has already been proven by scientists around the world. It has been validated and the time is right to award a Nobel Prize." — Goran Hansson, chairman of the prize committee

From the Times (London): "I can’t underestimate impact of RNAi — it has really revolutionized biological research, allowing scientists to quickly assess the function of genes in all animals, from worms to humans. It also has significant therapeutic potential through its use in turning off disease causing genes." — Julie Ahringer of the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge

From the Times (London): "The discovery of RNA-mediated gene silencing has revolutionized our understanding of the control of gene expression and development. Perhaps even more importantly, it provides a simple tool for manipulating gene expression in the laboratory, and with great promise for altering gene expression to treat diseases such as viral infections and cancer." — Professor Chris Higgins, director of the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre

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