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Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome

Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome

by Venki Ramakrishnan


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A Nobel Prize-winning biologist tells the riveting story of his race to discover the inner workings of biology's most important molecule

"Ramakrishnan's writing is so honest, lucid and engaging that I could not put this book down until I had read to the very end." — Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene

Everyone has heard of DNA. But by itself, DNA is just an inert blueprint for life. It is the ribosome — an enormous molecular machine made up of a million atoms — that makes DNA come to life, turning our genetic code into proteins and therefore into us. Gene Machine is an insider account of the race for the structure of the ribosome, a fundamental discovery that both advances our knowledge of all life and could lead to the development of better antibiotics against life-threatening diseases. But this is also a human story of Ramakrishnan's unlikely journey, from his first fumbling experiments in a biology lab to being the dark horse in a fierce competition with some of the world's best scientists. In the end, Gene Machine is a frank insider's account of the pursuit of high-stakes science.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465093366
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 311,196
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Venki Ramakrishnan shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for uncovering the structure of the ribosome. He is a senior scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and also the president of the Royal Society in London.

Table of Contents

Foreword J. A. Doudna ix

Prologue xi

Chapter 1 An Unexpected Change of Plans in America 1

Chapter 2 Stumbling into the Ribosome 9

Chapter 3 Seeing the Invisible 27

Chapter 4 The First Crystals of the Machine 41

Chapter 5 Going to the Mecca of Crystallography 57

Chapter 6 Emerging from the Primordial Mist 71

Chapter 7 A Threshold Is Crossed 81

Chapter 8 The Race Begins 95

Chapter 9 Getting Started in Utah 107

Chapter 10 A Return to Mecca 123

Chapter 11 Coming Out of the Closet 135

Chapter 12 Almost Missing the Boat 147

Chapter 13 The Final Assault 163

Chapter 14 Seeing the New Continent 177

Chapter 15 The Politics of Recognition 187

Chapter 16 The Ribosome Road Show 197

Chapter 17 The Movie Emerges 211

Chapter 18 The Phone Call in October 227

Chapter 19 A Week in Stockholm 239

Chapter 20 Science Marches On 249

Epilogue 257

Acknowledgments 265

Notes and Suggested Reading 267

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