Biologist and Reed alum who studied genetic on/off switch to talk at alma mater Feb. 4

Mark Ptashne, a biologist and Reed College alumnus, is among the first scientists who helped unravel how DNA is  activated or repressed during transcription via a genetic on/off mechanism.

And now he’s the recipient of Reed’s 2016 Thomas Lamb Eliot Award, which recognizes distinguished and sustained achievement by the college’s alumni.

As the award winner, Ptashne will give a lecture at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in Reed’s Vollum lecture hall.

In a press release from Reed, Ptashne’s work was described as follows: “British molecular biologist and cancer researcher, Joe Stambrook, called Ptashne’s discovery the ‘greatest sustained experiment of the last century.’ Genetic switches are common in the biological world and Ptashne showed how genetic decisions may happen on a molecular level. His discovery provided a framework for researchers to understand, for example, how cancer cells multiply and could potentially be manipulated.”

Ptashne’s other accomplishments include two books, “A Genetic Switch” and “Genes and Signals,” and the 1997 Lasker Award for Basic Research,  considered second to a Nobel Prize.

Ptashne earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Reed in 1961 and went on to earn a doctorate from Harvard University, where he was part of the faculty from 1968 to 1997. He currently is the Ludwig Professor of Molecular Biology at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York.

For more information on the talk, go to Reed’s events page.

Susannah L. Bodman
Twitter: @Sciwhat
Facebook: Sciwhat.Science

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