Richard J. Roberts

For other people named Richard Roberts, see Richard Roberts (disambiguation).
Sir Richard Roberts

Richard Roberts
Born Richard John Roberts
(1943-09-06) 6 September 1943[1]
Derby, England
Nationality British
Fields molecular biologist
Alma mater University of Sheffield (BSc, PhD)
Thesis Phytochemical studies involving neoflavanoids and isoflavanoids (1969)
Known for
Influences David Ollis[3]
John Kendrew[3]
Jack Strominger[3]
Daniel Nathans[3]
James Watson[3]
Notable awards

Sir Richard John Roberts (born 6 September 1943) FRS[6] is an English biochemist and molecular biologist. He was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Phillip Allen Sharp for the discovery of introns in eukaryotic DNA and the mechanism of gene-splicing. He currently works at New England Biolabs.[9][10][11]

Early life and education

Roberts was born in Derby, the son of Edna (Allsop) and John Roberts, an auto mechanic.[3] When he was four, Roberts' family moved to Bath. In Bath, he attended City of Bath Boys' School.[3] As a child he at first wanted to be a detective and then, when given a chemistry set, a chemist. In 1965 he graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry followed by a PhD in 1969.[1] His thesis involved phytochemical studies of neoflavonoids and isoflavonoids.[8][12]

Career and research

During 1969–1972, he did postdoctoral research at Harvard University.[3] before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,[13] where he was hired by James Dewey Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and a fellow Nobel laureate. In 1992, he moved to New England Biolabs.[3] The following year, he shared a Nobel Prize with his former colleague at Cold Spring Harbor Phillip Sharp.[14]

Roberts's discovery of the alternative splicing of genes, in particular, has had a profound impact on the study and applications of molecular biology.[6] The realisation that individual genes could exist as separate, disconnected segments within longer strands of DNA first arose in the study of adenovirus,[13] one of the viruses responsible for causing the common cold. Robert's research in this field resulted in a fundamental shift in our understanding of genetics, and has led to the discovery of split genes in higher organisms, including human beings.[6][11]

Awards and honours

In 1992, Roberts received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University, Sweden.[15] After becoming a Nobel Laureate in 1993 he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) by the University of Bath in 1994.[16]

Roberts was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1995[6] and a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in the same year.[7] In 2005, a multimillion-pound expansion to the chemistry department at the University of Sheffield, where he had been a student, was named after him. A refurbished science department at Beechen Cliff School (previously City of Bath Boys' School) was also named after Roberts, who had donated a substantial sum of his Nobel prize winnings to the school.[17]

Roberts is an atheist and was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[18][19] He was knighted in the 2008 Birthday Honours.[1] Roberts is a member of the Advisory Board of Patient Innovation, a nonprofit, international, multilingual, free venue for patients and caregivers of any disease to share their innovations.

Roberts has been a keynote speaker at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders (2014, 2015, 2016).


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 ROBERTS, Sir Richard (John). Who's Who. 1995 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  2. Roberts, Richard John (2003). "A nomenclature for restriction enzymes, DNA methyltransferases, homing endonucleases and their genes". Nucleic Acids Research. 31 (7): 1805–1812. doi:10.1093/nar/gkg274. PMC 152790Freely accessible. PMID 12654995.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Anon (1993). "Richard J. Roberts - Biographical". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  4. Shampo, M. A.; Kyle, R. A. (2003). "Richard J. Roberts—Nobel Laureate for Discovery of Split Genes". Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 78 (2): 132. doi:10.4065/78.2.132. PMID 12583523.
  5. Carr, Kimberly (1993). "Nobel goes to discoverers of "split genes"". Nature. 365 (6447): 597. doi:10.1038/365597a0. PMID 8413620.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Anon (1995). "Sir Richard Roberts FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-10-06. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:
    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  7. 1 2 Anon (2016). "Richard J. Roberts EMBO profile". Heidelberg: European Molecular Biology Organization.
  8. 1 2 Roberts, Richard John (1969). Phytochemical studies involving neoflavanoids and isoflavanoids (PhD thesis). University of Sheffield. OCLC 270832404.
  9. Roberts, R. J.; Chang, Y. -C.; Hu, Z.; Rachlin, J. N.; Anton, B. P.; Pokrzywa, R. M.; Choi, H. -P.; Faller, L. L.; Guleria, J.; Housman, G.; Klitgord, N.; Mazumdar, V.; McGettrick, M. G.; Osmani, L.; Swaminathan, R.; Tao, K. R.; Letovsky, S.; Vitkup, D.; Segrè, D.; Salzberg, S. L.; Delisi, C.; Steffen, M.; Kasif, S. (2010). "COMBREX: A project to accelerate the functional annotation of prokaryotic genomes". Nucleic Acids Research. 39 (Database issue): D11–D14. doi:10.1093/nar/gkq1168. PMC 3013729Freely accessible. PMID 21097892.
  10. Roberts, R. J.; Varmus, H. E.; Ashburner, M.; Brown, P. O.; Eisen, M. B.; Khosla, C.; Kirschner, M.; Nusse, R.; Scott, M. (2001). "Information Access: Building A GenBank of the Published Literature". Science. 291 (5512): 2318a. doi:10.1126/science.1060273.
  11. 1 2 Richard J. Roberts's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier. (subscription required)
  12. Richard J. Roberts Entry at ORCID
  13. 1 2 Chow, Louise T.; Gelinas, Richard E.; Broker, Thomas R.; Roberts, Richard J. (1977). "An amazing sequence arrangement at the 5′ ends of adenovirus 2 messenger RNA". Cell. 12 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(77)90180-5. PMID 902310.
  14. Klimasauskas, Saulius; Kumar, Sanjay; Roberts, Richard J.; Cheng, Xiaodong (1994). "Hhal methyltransferase flips its target base out of the DNA helix". Cell. 76 (2): 357–369. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(94)90342-5. PMID 8293469.
  15. "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden". 2016-08-17. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
  16. "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  17. "Beechen Cliff School website".
  18. "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  19. Reville, William (2006). "A bright journey to atheism, or a road that ignores all the signs?". Dublin: The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05.
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