Professor Thomas Steitz ForMemRS
Thomas Steitz won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to our understanding of the molecular machinery fundamental to all life. Using cutting-edge techniques Thomas developed a three-dimensional (3D) atomic-level map of the large subunit of the ribosome, the molecular factory that builds proteins from their genetic blueprint.
Thomas’s passion for studying macromolecules was stirred in the early 1960s by seeing images of the newly-defined structure of haemoglobin through 3D glasses. Thomas began his major work on the ribosome in the 1990s, having concentrated his research on the various molecular apparatus involved in converting genes into the vital proteins they encode.
Many antibiotics work by blocking the function of bacterial ribosomes, starving a fundamental process for their survival. But bacteria can evolve resistance, which is a major worldwide health problem. Thomas is applying his insight and significant skill to the structure-based design of experimental antibiotics that may avoid resistance.