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2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Richard Henderson

Courtesy MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

The department would like to congratulate Dr Richard Henderson of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, for being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with Jacques Dubochet and Joachim Frank.

The award was given “for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated:  “Electron microscopes were long believed to only be suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroys biological material.  But in 1990, Richard Henderson succeeded in using an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at stomic resolution. This breakthrough proved the technology’s potential.”

Joachim Frank of Columbia University, New York, made the technology generally applicable, and Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, added water to electron microscopy, allowing the biomolecules to retain their shape even in the microscope’s vacuum.

Richard Henderson was originally a physicist from Edinburgh University, but switched into molecular biology and obtained his PHD at the University of Cambridge at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, becoming Director of the Division of Structural Studies there from 1996 to 2006.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences.