Sulston, Sir John Edward

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Sir John Edward Sulston, 1942–, British molecular biologist, Ph.D. Cambridge, 1966. He was staff scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, from 1969 to 1992, when he became founding director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, also in Cambridge. Sulston received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with Sydney Brenner and H. Robert Horvitz. Following Brenner's establishment of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism for genetic studies, Sulston developed techniques to study cell divisions in the species from the fertilized egg to the adult. In 1976 he published a map of the cell lineage for a part of the developing nervous system and demonstrated that the processes of cell division and differentiation do not vary from one individual to another. Sulston subsequently discovered that a genetic program directs cell death to maintain the correct balance of cells in the tissues as new cells are generated. Horvitz built on Sulston's work to discover and characterize key genes governing programmed cell death. The combined work of the three researchers has important implications for disease control and treatment. Sulston was knighted in 2001.