Rockefeller’s Robert Roeder Named a 2021 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Basic Sciences

A pioneer in the field of gene regulation and expression, Robert G. Roeder, PhD, has been named a 2021 recipient of the Kyoto Prize in basic sciences. Considered Japan’s most prestigious award in the fields of science and technology, as well as arts and philosophy, Roeder receives the honor for his discoveries of principles of gene transcription mechanisms in eukaryotes. Head of The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Roeder’s initial scientific discoveries took place during his time in graduate school when he discovered that three enzymes, called RNA polymerases, play a role in gene transcription in animal cells. In the late 1970s, using purified polymerases and synthetic copies of genes, he was successful in developing the first cell-free systems to study transcription, a scientific breakthrough that allowed scientists to recreate transcription and study the complex processes by which cells turn genes on and off. Over the course of his research, Dr. Roeder and his colleagues have extended these studies to living cells, and have described a critical new regulator that helps re-start a stalled RNA polymerase—work which could help elucidate how cancer therapeutics act in the cell and contribute to future drug development.

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