A pioneer in biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology, Dr. Kornberg is revered for his discovery of the nucleosome and for his contributions to the understanding of eukaryotic transcription. His contributions range from the first measurements of phospholipid “flip-flop” and lateral diffusion in membrane bilayers, to the structure and biological role of the nucleosome, to the eukaryotic transcription machinery, responsible for the readout of genetic information from DNA to messenger RNA (mRNA), leading to translation and protein production.
Dr. Kornberg ‘s research on transcription led him to discover Mediator, the central processing unit of eukaryotic gene regulation, and to the structural elucidation of the transcription machinery. The structure of RNA polymerase, in the act of transcription, was determined at near atomic resolution by X-ray crystallography. The entire transcription machinery, including RNA polymerase, transcription factors, and Mediator, was imaged by electron microscopy. These studies have revealed the mechanism of gene transcription and the roles of many components involved in the process.
Collectively, Dr. Kornberg ‘s research has revolutionized modern genetics and molecular biology, not only by allowing for the understanding of chromosome structure and the visualization of gene transcription, but also by providing the basis for biological studies seeking to better define the role of transcription in cellular fate, function, and disease. It is now widely understood that aberrations in gene transcription represent key cellular events in the pathogenesis of various cancer malignancies, highlighting the opportunity for future research dedicated to targeting such cellular abnormalities.
2013 Datta Medal, Federation of European Biomedical Societies, Cambridge, United Kingdom
2010 Santiago Grisolía Prize, City of Arts and Sciences Foundation, Valencia, Spain
2008 Aharon Katzir-Katchalsky Award, International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics, Murcia, Spain
2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
2005 Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Prize, General Motors Cancer Research Foundation
2003 Massry Prize, The Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation, Beverly Hills, California
2003 Robert J. and Claire Pasarow Foundation Medical Research Award in Cancer Research, Santa Monica, California
2002 Grand Prix Charles-Léopold Mayer, French Academy of Sciences, Paris, France
2002 ASBMB-Merck Award, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Rockville, Maryland
2001 Felix Hoppe-Seyler Prize, The German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Frankfurt, Germany
2001 Welch Award in Chemistry, Robert A. Welch Foundation, Houston, Texas
2000 Gairdner International Award, Gairdner Foundation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1981 Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry, American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C.
1997 Harvey Prize, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
1990 Ciba-Drew Award for Biomedical Research
1982 Young Scientist Award, The Passano Foundation, Baltimore, Maryland