Blackburn, Elizabeth Helen

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Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, 1948–, Australian-American molecular biologist, b. Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, Ph.D. Cambridge, 1975. Blackburn was a professor at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, from 1978 to 1990, when she transferred to California's San Francisco campus. She shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Jack Szostak and Carol Greider for solving the problem of how chromosomes make complete copies of themselves during cell division and how they protect themselves against degradation during this process. The researchers demonstrated that the ends of the chromosomes, called as telomeres, are responsible. With Greider, Blackburn identified and characterized telomerase, the enzyme that forms telomeres. With Szostak, she discovered that a unique DNA sequence in the telomeres protects the chromosomes from degradation. The work of the three researchers increased understanding of cell replication and shed light on disease mechanisms, stimulating the development of potential new disease therapies.