John Sulston

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Sir John Sulston
John Sulston.jpg
Born John Edward Sulston
(1942-03-27) 27 March 1942 (age 72)[1]
Citizenship Britain
Nationality English
Fields Biology
Institutions Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
University of Cambridge
Salk Institute
Laboratory of Molecular Biology
University of Manchester
Alma mater Pembroke College, Cambridge
Thesis Aspects of oligoribonucleotide synthesis (1967)
Known for Work on Caenorhabditis elegans[2][3][4][5]
Sulston score[6]
Director of Sanger Centre
Notable awards Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine (2002)
Knight Bachelor (2001)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1986)
George W. Beadle Award (2000)[7]
Spouse Daphne Edith Bate[1]
The Sulston Laboratories of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Sir John Edward Sulston FRS (born 27 March 1942) is a British biologist. He is a joint winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. As of 2012 he is Chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation[8] at the University of Manchester.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]


Sulston was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood[1] and Pembroke College, Cambridge graduating in 1963 with an undergraduate degree in Organic Chemistry. He joined the department of chemistry in Cambridge, gained his Doctor of Philosophy[16] for research in nucleotide chemistry, and devoted his scientific life to biological research, especially in the field of molecular biology.


After working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies for a while, he returned to Cambridge to work with Sydney Brenner at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Sulston played a central role in both the Caenorhabditis elegans worm [3] and human genome[17] sequencing projects. He had argued successfully for the sequencing of C. elegans to show that large-scale genome sequencing projects were feasible. As sequencing of the worm genome proceeded, the project to sequence the human genome began. At this point he was made director of the newly established Sanger Centre (named after Fred Sanger and now the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute), located in Cambridgeshire, England.

Following completion of the 'working draft' of the human genome sequence in 2000, Sulston retired from his role as director at the Sanger Centre. In 2002 he won the Dan David Prize and the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award. Later, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sydney Brenner and H. Robert Horvitz, both of whom he had collaborated with at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'. One of Sulston's most important contributions during his research years at the LMB was to elucidate the precise order in which cells in C. elegans divide. In fact, he and his team succeeded in tracing the nematode's entire embryonic cell lineage. Sulston is now a leading campaigner against the patenting of human genetic information.

Sulston is a distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association.[18] In 2003 he was one of 21 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[19]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2001 Sulston was invited to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on The Secrets of Life.

He also provided bail sureties for Julian Assange, according to Mark Stephens, Julian's solicitor.[20] Having backed Julian Assange by pledging bail in December 2010, he lost the money in June 2012 when a judge ordered it to be forfeited, as Assange had sought to escape the jurisdiction of the English courts by entering the embassy of Ecuador.[21]

He was awarded the Royal Society's Rutherford Memorial Lecture for 2013, which he delivered in New Zealand on the subject of population pressure. [22]


  1. ^ a b c "SULSTON, Sir John (Edward)". Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Wilson, R.; Ainscough, R.; Anderson, K.; Baynes, C.; Berks, M.; Bonfield, J.; Burton, J.; Connell, M.; Copsey, T.; Cooper, J.; Coulson, A.; Craxton, M.; Dear, S.; Du, Z.; Durbin, R.; Favello, A.; Fraser, A.; Fulton, L.; Gardner, A.; Green, P.; Hawkins, T.; Hillier, L.; Jier, M.; Johnston, L.; Jones, M.; Kershaw, J.; Kirsten, J.; Laisster, N.; Latreille, P.; Lightning, J. (1994). "2.2 Mb of contiguous nucleotide sequence from chromosome III of C. Elegans". Nature 368 (6466): 32–38. doi:10.1038/368032a0. PMID 7906398.  edit
  3. ^ a b Sulston, J.; Brenner, S. (1974). "The DNA of Caenorhabditis elegans". Genetics 77 (1): 95–104. PMC 1213121. PMID 4858229.  edit
  4. ^ Sulston, J. E.; Schierenberg, E.; White, J. G.; Thomson, J. N. (1983). "The embryonic cell lineage of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans". Developmental Biology 100 (1): 64–119. doi:10.1016/0012-1606(83)90201-4. PMID 6684600.  edit
  5. ^ Sulston, J. E.; Horvitz, H. R. (1977). "Post-embryonic cell lineages of the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans". Developmental Biology 56 (1): 110–156. doi:10.1016/0012-1606(77)90158-0. PMID 838129.  edit
  6. ^ Sulston, J.; Mallett, F.; Staden, R.; Durbin, R.; Horsnell, T.; Coulson, A. (1988). "Software for genome mapping by fingerprinting techniques". Computer applications in the biosciences : CABIOS 4 (1): 125–132. PMID 2838135.  edit
  7. ^ Kimble, J. (2001). "The 2000 George W. Beadle Medal. John Sulston and Robert Waterston". Genetics 157 (2): 467–468. PMC 1461515. PMID 11370623.  edit
  8. ^ Harris, J.; Sulston, J. (2004). "Opinion: Genetic equity". Nature Reviews Genetics 5 (10): 796–800. doi:10.1038/nrg1454. PMID 15510171.  edit
  9. ^
  10. ^ Gitschier, J. (2006). "Knight in Common Armor: An Interview with Sir John Sulston". PLoS Genetics 2 (12): e225. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0020225. PMC 1756915. PMID 17196043.  edit
  11. ^ Sulston, J. (2002). "A conversation with John Sulston". The Yale journal of biology and medicine 75 (5–6): 299–306. PMC 2588810. PMID 14580111.  edit
  12. ^ Kimble, J. (2001). "The 2000 George W. Beadle Medal. John Sulston and Robert Waterston". Genetics 157 (2): 467–468. PMC 1461515. PMID 11370623.  edit
  13. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  14. ^ Portraits of John Sulston at the National Portrait Gallery, London
  15. ^ John Sulston from the Scopus bibliographic database
  16. ^ Sulston, John (1967). Aspects of oligoribonucleotide synthesis (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. (subscription required)
  17. ^ Lander, E. S.; Linton, M.; Birren, B.; Nusbaum, C.; Zody, C.; Baldwin, J.; Devon, K.; Dewar, K.; Doyle, M.; Fitzhugh, W.; Funke, R.; Gage, D.; Harris, K.; Heaford, A.; Howland, J.; Kann, L.; Lehoczky, J.; Levine, R.; McEwan, P.; McKernan, K.; Meldrim, J.; Mesirov, J. P.; Miranda, C.; Morris, W.; Naylor, J.; Raymond, C.; Rosetti, M.; Santos, R.; Sheridan, A. et al. (Feb 2001). "Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome". Nature 409 (6822): 860–921. doi:10.1038/35057062. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 11237011.  edit
  18. ^ "Distinguished Supporters". British Humanist Association. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Retrieved 4 October 2012. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Daily Mail 4 September 2012
  22. ^ "Rutherford Memorial Lecturer". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 September 2013. 

External links[edit]

Biographies and profiles[edit]


News and Press about John Sulston[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Director of the Sanger Institute
Succeeded by
Allan Bradley