Jerry Adams is a molecular biologist based in Australia who has made seminal contributions to molecular biology, immunology and cancer genetics. Jerry showed that the great variety of antibodies comes about through ‘shuffling’ of variable genetic segments. Since turning to cancer research, he has highlighted the importance of impaired cell death in tumourigenesis.
Early in his career, Jerry was involved in discovering how the cellular synthesis of proteins is initiated. With his wife and career-long collaborator Suzanne Cory, Jerry became the first in Australia to clone a mammalian gene — an antibody — and revealed that the genetic segments of antibodies are rearranged and deleted to achieve their substantial diversity.
Turning to cancer, Jerry discovered an important culprit gene for the blood cancer Burkitt’s lymphoma. He also led research to show that the Bcl-2 family of proteins determines whether or not cells can commit suicide in response to damage signals — a vital ‘safety switch’ for preventing cancer.