School of Science and IAS Nobel Prize Popular Science Lecture

The Cell’s Toolbox for DNA Repair: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015


The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Tomas Lindahl (UK), Paul Modrich (USA) and Aziz Sancar (USA) for having mapped, at a molecular level, how cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard the genetic information. Tomas Lindahl demonstrated that DNA decays at a rate that ought to have made the development of life on Earth impossible. This insight led him to discover a molecular machinery, base excision repair, which constantly counteracts the collapse of our DNA. Aziz Sancar has mapped nucleotide excision repair, the mechanism that cells use to repair UV damage to DNA. Paul Modrich has demonstrated how the cell corrects errors that occur when DNA replicated during cell division. This mechanism, mismatch repair, reduces the error frequency during DNA replication by about a throusandfold. They have provided fundamental insights into how cells function, knowledge that can be used, for instance, in the development of new cancer treatments.

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