Elizabeth H. Blackburn

By:MIckeila Twyford


Born: 26 November 1948, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Prize motivation: "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase"

*One of seven children born to two family physicians, she was encouraged to participate in science from an early age. She completed her BSc (1970) and MSc (1972) in biology at the University of Melbourne, her PhD (1975) from the University of Cambridge in England and did postdoctoral work at Yale in the US before joining the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley in 1978.

cracking the DNA code

Blackburn’s discovery of telomerase was heralded as the ‘fountain of youth, When Blackburn presented her results in 1980, Szostak suggested they try an experiment by grafting the CCCCAA sequence to previously vulnerable minichromosomes in yeast. Sure enough, the telomere protected them from degradation. As the two organisms were not related, this showed a fundamental mechanism common to most plants and animals


Elizabeth H. Blackburn