Richard J. Roberts

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Derby, England
Birth Sign
Derby, England

Richard John Roberts is an English biochemist and molecular biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the gene-splicing mechanism. He split the prize with Philip Sharp, who carried done comparable work in the field independently. Roberts’ fascination with chemistry began in high school. He was so taken with the subject that he decided to pursue it as a career. Following his graduate studies and dissertation, Roberts attended Harvard and eventually joined the Cold Harbor Laboratory. Roberts first encountered success with restriction enzymes in the laboratory. By 1972, he had found or classified nearly three-quarters of all restriction enzymes ever discovered. Later that year, in 1977, Roberts revealed how to partition RNA into introns and exons, and then how to link the exons together. The discovery was significant because, until then, the scientific community assumed that genes were composed entirely of unbroken DNA sketches. Significant implications for the research of hereditary illnesses resulted from the discovery. Additionally, it enabled the recombination of distinct regions of the gene.

Childhood and Adolescence

Richard John Roberts was born in Derby, England, on September 6, 1943, to Edna Allsop and John Roberts. His father worked as an auto mechanic, while his mother was a stay-at-home mom.

The family moved to Bath when Robert was four years old. He went to Christ Church Infant School and then St Stephen’s Boys’ School in that town. Roberts developed an interest in logic and mathematics while at Stephen’s. Mr. Broakes, his headmaster, encouraged him by spending hours creating issues and then assisting Roberts in solving them.

He attended City of Bath Boys’ School after finishing his elementary education. Robert wanted to be a detective when he was younger, but after he was given a chemistry playset, he changed his mind. His science playset was transformed into a large in-house chemistry laboratory complete with genuine chemicals and apparatus. In chemistry, he quickly discovered his true calling.

He went to the University of Sheffield after finishing his secondary studies. In 1965, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the same institution. He earned his Ph.D. in the field four years later, with his thesis focusing on phytochemical research of neoflavonoids and isoflavonoids.

Richard Roberts’s Career

Richard J. Roberts discovered a book by John Kendrew while working on his Ph.D. that shifted his concentration to molecular biology. The book focused on the MRC Laboratory in Cambridge and explored the early beginnings of crystallography and molecular biology.

Roberts sought out a laboratory that would give him a path into molecular biology for his postdoctoral studies. Jack Strominger, a Harvard professor, presented him with a chance. From 1969 through 1972, he worked on research projects.

He came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in September 1972, where he worked alongside James Dewey Watson, co-discoverer of DNA structure. He also went to a Dan Nathans seminar that year, when he learned about an enzyme called Endonuclease R, which could split DNA into particular sections. Nathans’ restriction enzyme, Roberts realized, provided an immediate technique to isolate tiny DNA molecules.

He produced Endonuclease R and the few other restriction enzymes known at the time at Cold Harbor Laboratory. By 1973, he had made a name for himself in the field of restriction enzymes. Under his direction, about a quarter of the world’s first restriction enzymes were found or characterized. He had compiled an enzyme collection that scientists all across the world found to be extremely useful.

To define the initiation and termination signals for an Adenovirus-2mRNA, Roberts teamed up with Richard Gelinas in 1974. The major goal was to sequence an mRNA’s 5′ end, map it on a restriction segment, and then sequence the upstream region. mRNA caps were found just before the experiment started. The duo devised a method for evaluating capped oligonucleotides.

While working on Adenovirus-2mRNA’s initiation and termination signals, All late mRNAs appeared to start with the same capped oligonucleotide, which was not encoded on the DNA close to the main body of the mRNA, according to Roberts and Gelinas. They didn’t have real proof, even though they had biochemical evidence for it.

Roberts devised an experiment in March 1977 that proved the anticipated split structure for Adenovirus-2mRNAs was correct. Louise Chow and Tom Broker soon joined the duo. By hybridizing an intact mRNA to its two separate coding regions, the four scientists were able to visualize the split structure. They eventually came up with adequate DNA pieces that were visible in the electron microscope as split genes.

Before Roberts’ discovery, scientists assumed that genes were made up of long lengths of DNA that all encoded protein structures. However, it was discovered that the discontinuous gene structure is the most common structure seen in higher species as a result of his research (eukaryotes). This structure is thought to drive evolution by allowing information from different sections of the gene to be brought together in new combinations, which has crucial implications for the study of genetic illnesses.

Roberts joined New England Biolabs in 1992. Don Cromb, the company’s founder and president, established the company primarily to create restriction enzymes for commercial sale. Roberts began his career at the establishment as a major consultant and was quickly elevated to joint Research Director.

His Major Projects

Richard J. Roberts’ most notable achievement was the discovery of split genes in the 1970s. The discovery was significant in the scientific community since scientists previously believed that genes were made up of long lengths of DNA that encoded protein structures. Roberts was the one who discovered the discontinuous gene structure.

He established that the segments of DNA that code for proteins are interrupted by long sections of DNA that do not contain genetic information through his tests. He demonstrated how introns and exons can be separated from RNA, and then the exons can be linked together. This can happen in a variety of ways, providing a gene the ability to produce a variety of proteins.

Achievements & Awards

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Richard J. Roberts and Phillip A. Sharp in 1993 “for their discoveries of split genes.” Sharp worked on the subject on his own.
In 1994, the University of Bath awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Science degree.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1995.

Personal History and Legacy

Roberts has four children, Alison, Andrew, Christopher, and Amanda, with his wife Jean.
His alma mater, the University of Sheffield, named the chemistry department after him in 2005.

Estimated Net worth