Laureates 2002

2002 Future - Life Sciences

John Sulston (March 1942 - March 2018)


Sir John Sulston graduated from Cambridge University in 1963. After completing his Ph.D. on the chemical synthesis of DNA, he moved to the USA to study prebiotic chemistry (the origins of life on Earth). In 1969, Sir John joined Sydney Brenner's group at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he studied the biology and genetics of the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. He and his team collaborated with Bob Waterston at Washington University in the US to sequence the genome of this model organism. In 1992, Sir Sulston was appointed the first Director of the Sanger Centre in Cambridgeshire, which is behind the UK's contribution to the international Human Genome Project. He stepped down as Director in September 2000.

Sir John Sulston is co-author with Georgina Ferry of The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome, published by Bantam Press in 2002. The book tells the story of the sequencing of the human genome from the point of view of one of its leading figures, and discusses what the achievement means for future medical treatments and our understanding of ourselves. In light of the recent 'gene rush' by companies to stake claims to parts of the genome, the authors argue that the information it contains should be freely available for the benefit of all, and not carved up for private profit. "The human genome will be the foundation of biology for decades, centuries or millennia to come".

Sulston subsequently received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2002.