Walter “Wally” Gilbert talks to Ron Vale about developing one of the first methods for sequencing DNA. In the 1970s, Gilbert sought to decipher the lac repressor DNA binding sequence. It took him and his colleague two years to sequence 24 bases. Later, Gilbert realized that he could use chemical agents to both modify and break DNA at different nucleotides, creating fragments that he could separate by electrophoresis. This resulted in a sequencing pattern which could be used to determine long sequences of DNA. Because of this technique, along with the Sanger method, DNA sequencing took off. Gilbert was awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery.
Walter Gilbert is a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. Gilbert has made many significant contributions to biology, including being the first to propose the existence of introns and exons and the RNA world hypothesis, and making major breakthroughs in elucidating the mechanism of mRNA transcription and translation. Gilbert developed one of the first methods for… Continue Reading