UCSC Biologist Harry Noller Honored by Paul Ehrlich Foundation

December 11, 2006

By staff writer (831) 459-2495

Harry Noller
Harry Noller, Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology, a recipient of the 2007 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize
The Paul Ehrlich Foundation of Germany has announced that it will award the 2007 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize to Harry Noller, Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is the most distinguished award in biomedical research in Germany. The prize recognizes Noller and Yonath for their "outstanding contributions to the three-dimensional molecular characterization of the complex protein-synthesizing apparatus of cells, the ribosome--an unexpected insight into the RNA world."

Noller directs the Center for Molecular Biology of RNA at UCSC. The independent investigations of Noller and Yonath into the structure and function of the ribosome have led to major advances in the understanding of this complex molecular machine, which is essential to all forms of life. Noller's research group was the first to solve the complete structure of a ribosome using x-ray crystallography. Subsequent investigations have revealed details of the mechanisms by which the ribosome translates genetic instructions and carries out protein synthesis.

The ribosome is made up of both protein and RNA components, and Noller's lab has shown that the RNA component carries out the key functions of the ribosome, including the formation of peptide bonds during protein synthesis. Understanding ribosomes is important not only because of their crucial role in all living cells, but also because many antibiotics work by targeting bacterial ribosomes. Research on ribosomes by Noller and others has led to the development of novel antibiotics that hold promise for use against bacteria that have developed resistance to current drugs.

The Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize is awarded to preserve the memory and scientific heritage of Paul Ehrlich, a German scientist who won the 1908 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The prize also acknowledges Ludwig Darmstaedter's early and continued support of Paul Ehrlich's scientific endeavors. It honors scientists who have made valuable contributions in Ehrlich's fields of work, especially in chemotherapy, hematology, clinical bacteriology, immunology, and cancer research.

The award ceremony will take place on Paul Ehrlich's birthday, March 14, in the historic St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt, Germany. The prize is endowed with $127,000 and includes a diploma and gold copy of the original medal of the Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize carrying the effigy of Paul Ehrlich. The Darmstaedter and Ehrlich prizes were merged in 1952.

Noller has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the 2004 Massry Prize (also shared with Yonath), the RNA Society's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, the2002 Newcomb Cleveland Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the 2001 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1992. Noller earned his bachelor's degree in biochemistry at UC Berkeley and Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Oregon. He joined the UCSC faculty in 1968.