Sharp, Phillip Allen

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Phillip Allen Sharp, 1944–, American geneticist, b. Falmouth, Ky., Ph.D., Univ. of Illinois, 1969. Sharp joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974, where he has spent his entire career; in 1993 he and Richard J. Roberts received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of "split genes." Using the adenovirus, which causes the common cold, as their experimental model system, the two independently discovered that a single gene could be present in DNA as several discontinuous segments, separated by "nonsense" segments. In the expression of genetic information, these irrelevant segments are edited out and the remaining material is spliced, yielding the final genetic message. The genetic makeup of the adenovirus is similar to that of higher organisms, and other researchers went on to show that split genes are common in such organisms, including humans.