Jack Szostak is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres.
Szostak is credited with the construction of the world's first yeast artificial chromosome. That achievement helped scientists to map the location of genes in mammals and to develop techniques for manipulating genes. His achievements in this area are also instrumental to the Human Genome Project.
His discoveries have helped to clarify the events that lead to chromosomal recombination—the reshuffling of genes that occurs during meiosis—and the function of telomeres, the specialized DNA sequences at the tips of chromosomes.
In the early 90s his laboratory shifted its research direction and focused on studying RNA enzymes, which had been recently discovered by Cech and Altman. He developed the technique of in vitro evolution of RNA (also developed independently by Gerald Joyce) which enables the discovery of RNAs with desired functions through successive cycles of selection, amplification and mutation. He isolated the first aptamer (term he used for the first time). He isolated RNA enzymes with RNA ligase activity directly from random sequence (project of David Bartel).
Currently his lab focuses on the challenges of understanding the origin of life on Earth, and the construction of artificial cellular life in the laboratory. In 2022, he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as University Professor, leading a new interdisciplinary program called the Origins of Life Initiative.
[Video] Origin of life on earth and design of alternatives Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2017
[Video] Reconstructing the first cells Presentation at Molecular the Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2011
Photo by Per Thorén