Cech, Thomas Robert

Cech, Thomas Robert

(chĕk), 1947–, American microbiologist, b. Chicago, grad. Univ. of California, Berkeley. A professor at the Univ. of Colorado, he discovered that RNA could function as enzymes; it was previously thought that enzymatic activity was only possible in protein molecules. His discovery has a potential use in fighting viral infections. For this work, Cech shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sidney AltmanAltman, Sidney,
1939–, Canadian-American molecular biologist, b. Montreal, Ph.D., Univ. of Colorado, 1967. A professor at Yale Univ. since 1971, he discovered that RNA could function as enzymes; it was previously thought that enzymatic activity was only possible in protein
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, who independently made the same discovery. In 2000 he became president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a philanthropic organization that is an important underwriter of biomedical research and education.
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