Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

Venki Ramakrishnan

Ramakrishnan in 2015
Born Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
1952 (age 6364)[1]
Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
Residence United Kingdom
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • India (OCI)
Alma mater
Thesis The Green Function Theory of the Ferroelectric Phase Transition in Potassium Dihydrogen-Phosphate (1976)
Doctoral advisor Tomoyasu Tanaka[1][4]
Known for
Notable awards
Spouse Vera Rosenberry (m. 1975)[1]
Children 1 son, 1 stepdaughter[1]


Venkatraman "Venki" Ramakrishnan (born 1952)[3] is an Indian-American-British structural biologist of Indian origin. He is the current President of the Royal Society, having held the position since November 2015.[9] In 2009 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath, "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome".[5][10][11][12][13]

Since 1999, he has worked as a group leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, UK, where he is also the Deputy Director.[14][15]

Education and early life

Ramakrishnan was born in Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India[16] to C. V. Ramakrishnan and Rajalakshmi Ramakrishnan in a Tamil Iyer family.[1] Both his parents were scientists, and his father was head of department of biochemistry at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.[1][17][18] At the time of his birth, Ramakrishnan's father was away from India doing postdoctoral research with David E. Green at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[1]

His mother obtained a PhD in Psychology from McGill University in 1959[19] which she completed in only 18 months, and was mentored by Donald O. Hebb.[1] Lalita Ramakrishnan, his younger sister, is professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge,[20] and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[21]

Ramakrishnan moved to Vadodara (previously also known as Baroda) in Gujarat at the age of three, where he had his schooling at Convent of Jesus and Mary, except for spending 1960–61 in Adelaide, Australia. Following his Pre-Science at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, he did his undergraduate studies in the same university on a National Science Talent Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1971.[11] At the time, the physics course at Baroda was new, and based in part on The Berkeley Physics Course and The Feynman Lectures on Physics.[1]

Immediately after graduation he moved to the U.S.A., where he obtained his PhD degree in Physics from Ohio University in 1976 for research into the ferroelectric phase transition of Potassium Dihydrogen Phosphate (KDP)[22] supervised by Tomoyasu Tanaka.[4][23][24] He then spent two years studying biology as a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego while making a transition from theoretical physics to biology.[25]

Career and research

Ramakrishnan began work on ribosomes as a postdoctoral fellow with Peter Moore at Yale University.[11] After his post-doctoral fellowship, he initially could not find a faculty position even though he had applied to about 50 universities in the U.S.[26]

He continued to work on ribosomes from 1983-95 as a staff scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.[2] In 1995 he moved to the University of Utah as a Professor of Biochemistry, and in 1999, he moved to his current position at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he had also been a sabbatical visitor during 1991-92.

In 1999, Ramakrishnan's laboratory published a 5.5 Angstrom resolution structure of the 30S subunit. The following year, his laboratory determined the complete molecular structure of the 30S subunit of the ribosome and its complexes with several antibiotics. This was followed by studies that provided structural insights into the mechanism that ensures the fidelity of protein biosynthesis. More recently in 2007 his laboratory has determined the atomic structure of the whole ribosome in complex with its tRNA and mRNA ligands. Ramakrishnan is also known for his past work on histone and chromatin structure.

As of 2015 his most cited papers (according to Scopus[27]) have been published in Nature,[28][29][30] Science,[31][32] and Cell.[33][34][35]

Awards and honours

Ramakrishnan at the Nobel Prize Press conference in 2009.

Ramakrishnan was elected a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2002[36] and a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2003.[7] He was elected a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2004. In 2007, Ramakrishnan was awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine and the Datta Lectureship and Medal of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS). In 2008, he won the Heatley Medal of the British Biochemical Society. Since 2008, he is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and a foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy.

In 2009, Ramakrishnan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath.[37] He received India's second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.[38] Ramakrishnan was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to Molecular Biology,[8] but does not generally use the title 'Sir'.[39] In the same year, he was awarded the Sir Hans Krebs Medal by the FEBS. In 2013, he won the Spanish Jiménez-Diáz Prize. Ramakrishnan was included as one of 25 Greatest Global Living Indians by NDTV Channel, India on 14 December 2013. His certificate of election to the Royal Society reads:

Ramakrishnan is internationally recognised for determination of the atomic structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit. Earlier he mapped the arrangement of proteins in the 30S subunit by neutron diffraction and solved X-ray structures of individual components and their RNA complexes. Fundamental insights came from his crystallographic studies of the complete 30S subunit. The atomic model included over 1500 bases of RNA and 20 associated proteins. The RNA interactions representing the P-site tRNA and the mRNA binding site were identified and the likely modes of action of many clinically important antibiotics determined. His most recent work goes to the heart of the decoding mechanism showing the 30S subunit complexed with poly-U mRNA and the stem-loop of the cognate phenylalanine tRNA. Anti-codon recognition leaves the "wobble" base free to accommodate certain non-Watson/Crick basepairs, thus providing an atomic description of both codon:anti-codon recognition and "wobble". He has also made substantial contributions to understanding how chromatin is organised, particularly the structure of linker histones and their role in higher order folding.[6]

Personal life

Ramakrishnan married Vera Rosenberry, an author and illustrator of children's books, in 1975.[1] His stepdaughter Tanya Kapka is a doctor in Oregon, and his son Raman Ramakrishnan is a cellist based in New York.[40]

Ramakrishnan is vegetarian.[41][42]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan - Biography: From Chidambaram to Cambridge: A Life in Science". Stockholm: Archived from the original on 2015-04-18.
  2. 1 2 Cerf, Corinne; Lippens, Guy; Muyldermans, Serge; Segers, Alain; Ramakrishnan, V.; Wodak, Shoshana J.; Hallenga, Klaas; Wyns, Lode (1993). "Homo- and heteronuclear two-dimensional NMR". Biochemistry. American Chemical Society. 32 (42): 11345–11351. doi:10.1021/bi00093a011. Retrieved 2015-06-17.
  3. 1 2 RAMAKRISHNAN, Sir Venkatraman. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  4. 1 2 Ramakrishnan, Venkatraman; Tanaka, Tomoyasu (1977). "Green's-function theory of the ferroelectric phase transition in potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP)". Physical Review B. American Physical Society. 16 (1): 422–426. doi:10.1103/physrevb.16.422. Retrieved 2015-06-17.
  5. 1 2 "2009 Chemistry Nobel Laureates". Nobel Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  6. 1 2 "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: Certificate of Election EC/2003/31". London: The Royal Society. 2003. Archived from the original on 2015-06-18.
  7. 1 2 "Sir Venki Ramakrishnan FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06.
  8. 1 2 The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60009. p. 1. 31 December 2011.
  9. Peplow, M. (2015). "Structural biologist named president of UK Royal Society". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17153.
  10. Rodnina, Marina V.; Wintermeyer, Wolfgang (2010). "The ribosome goes Nobel". Trends in Biochemical Sciences. Elsevier BV. 35 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2009.11.003. PMID 19962317. Retrieved 2015-06-17.
  11. 1 2 3 "Venkatraman_Ramakrishnan". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 2015-04-19.
  12. Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
  13. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Audio Interview Official Nobel Foundation website telephone interview
  14. Nair, Prashant (2011). "Profile of Venkatraman Ramakrishnan". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (38): 15676–15678. doi:10.1073/pnas.1113044108. PMC 3179092Freely accessible. PMID 21914843.
  15. "Biologist Venki Ramakrishnan to lead Royal Society". London: BBC News. 2015-03-18. Archived from the original on 2015-10-10.
  16. "Common root: Tamil Nadu gets its third laureate". Times of India. TNN. 8 October 2009.
  18. Ramakrishnan, C. V.; Banerjee, B. N. (1951). "Mould Lipase: Effect of Addition of Vitamins and Sterol to the Cake Medium on the Growth and the Activity of the Lipolytic Mould". Nature. 168 (4282): 917–918. doi:10.1038/168917a0. PMID 14899529.
  19. Ramakrishnan, Rajalakshmi (1959). Comparative Effects of Successive and Simultaneous Presentation on Transfer in Verbal Learning (PhD thesis). McGill University.
  20. "Lalita Ramakrishnan Home page in Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge".
  21. "Lalita Ramakrishnan elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences". University of Cambridge. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  22. Ramakrishnan, Venkatraman (1976). The Green function theory of the ferroelectric phase transition in KDP (PhD thesis). Ohio University. OCLC 3079828.
  23. "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: A profile". Times of India. 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  24. "FACTBOX: Nobel chemistry prize – Who are the winners?". Reuters. 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  25. "Profile: Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan". Indian Express. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  26. "Nobel laureate Venkat Ramakrishnan failed IIT, medical entrance tests". The Times Of India. 2010-01-05.
  27. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier. (subscription required)
  28. Ramakrishnan, V.; Wimberly, Brian T.; Brodersen, Ditlev E.; Clemons, William M.; Morgan-Warren, Robert J.; Carter, Andrew P.; Vonrhein, Clemens; Hartsch, Thomas (2000). "Structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit". Nature. 407 (6802): 327–339. doi:10.1038/35030006. PMID 11014182.
  29. Ramakrishnan, V.; Carter, Andrew P.; Clemons, William M.; Brodersen, Ditlev E.; Morgan-Warren, Robert J.; Wimberly, Brian T. (2000). "Functional insights from the structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its interactions with antibiotics". Nature. 407 (6802): 340–348. doi:10.1038/35030019. PMID 11014183.
  30. Ramakrishnan, V.; Finch, J. T.; Graziano, V.; Lee, P. L.; Sweet, R. M. (1993). "Crystal structure of globular domain of histone H5 and its implications for nucleosome binding". Nature. 362 (6417): 219–223. doi:10.1038/362219a0. PMID 8384699.
  31. Ogle, J. M.; Brodersen, DE; Clemons, WM Jr; Tarry, MJ; Carter, AP; Ramakrishnan, V (2001). "Recognition of Cognate Transfer RNA by the 30S Ribosomal Subunit". Science. New York. 292 (5518): 897–902. doi:10.1126/science.1060612. PMID 11340196.
  32. Semenza, C; Butterworth, B; Panzeri, M; Ferreri, T (1990). "Word formation: New evidence from aphasia". Neuropsychologia. 28 (5): 499–502. doi:10.1016/0028-3932(90)90075-y. PMID 1695997.
  33. Brodersen, Ditlev E.; Clemons, William M.; Carter, Andrew P.; Morgan-Warren, Robert J.; Wimberly, Brian T.; Ramakrishnan, V. (2000). "The Structural Basis for the Action of the Antibiotics Tetracycline, Pactamycin, and Hygromycin B on the 30S Ribosomal Subunit". Cell. 103 (7): 1143–1154. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(00)00216-6. PMID 11163189.
  34. Ramakrishnan, V. (2002). "Ribosome Structure and the Mechanism of Translation". Cell. 108 (4): 557–572. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(02)00619-0. PMID 11909526.
  35. Ogle, James M.; Murphy, Frank V.; Tarry, Michael J.; Ramakrishnan, V. (2002). "Selection of tRNA by the Ribosome Requires a Transition from an Open to a Closed Form". Cell. 111 (5): 721–732. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(02)01086-3. PMID 12464183.
  36. "The EMBO Pocket Directory" (PDF). European Molecular Biology Organization. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-03-16.
  37. "All Nobel Laureates in Chemistry". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  38. "This Year's Padma Awards announced" (Press release). Ministry of Home Affairs. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  39. "Laureate - Venkatraman Ramakrishnan". Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  40. Amit Roy (17 Oct 2009). "'Venki' makes light of India link – Winner says not to treat science like cricket; league of misses grows". The Telegraph (Kolkata). Retrieved 2009-10-17.
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