16th May 2001

Top international award for British genome champion

Sir John Sulston, former Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre in Cambridge which carried out the United Kingdom contribution to the international Human Genome Project, will receive the Prince Asturia's Award for Scientific and Technical Research.

Sir John Sulston said: "I am delighted to accept this prestigious award, but only on behalf of the international Human Genome consortium, which has released the sequence of the human genome fairly and freely for the benefit of all mankind."

The award means that Sir John will receive five million pesetas (£18,000), a special Joan Miró sculpture, a diploma and insignia. The awards will be presented on 26 October in Oviedo in Spain at a ceremony presided over by HRH the Prince of Asturias.

Dr Mike Dexter, Director of the Wellcome Trust which funded a third of the international Human Genome Project, said: "Sir John's leadership made the Human Genome Project happen and his fighting spirit ensured that this information is freely available for all to use in the cause of improving human health. Sir John has been a torch bearer for the social conscience in science."

Sir John's successor as Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre, Professor Allan Bradley, said: "It was vital that our human genome was freely available, which would not have been the case without the efforts of Sir John Sulston, the team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre and the participants in the Human Genome Project. I am delighted that Sir John has been given such a prestigious award and know he will accept it only in recognition of the work of the international team.

"All those who believe in freedom of access to genome information will celebrate the award to the participants in the Human Genome Project."

Notes to editors

The Wellcome Trust is an international, independent biomedical research charity which aims to promote human and animal health.

Sir John Sulston

Sir John (59) graduated from Cambridge University in 1963. After completing his PhD on the chemical synthesis of DNA, he moved to the USA to study prebiotic chemistry (the origins of life on earth).

In 1969, Sir John joined Sydney Brenner's group at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he studied the biology and genetics of the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans. He and his team collaborated with Bob Waterstone at Washington University in the USA to sequence the genome of this model organism.

In 1992, Sir John was appointed the first Director of the Sanger Centre in Cambridgeshire which contributes the UK's contribution to the international Human Genome Project. He stepped down as Director in September 2000.

The Prince Asturias Awards

Each of the Prince of Asturias Awards, first granted in 1981, is endowed with five million pesetas, a sculpture especially made for the occasion donated by Joan Miró, a diploma and insignia. The awards will be presented on 26 October in Oviedo (Spain) at a ceremony presided over by HRH the Prince of Asturias.

The Prince of Asturias Foundation was created in 1980 in the course of a ceremony presided over by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía, and by H.R.H. Don Felipe, the Prince of Asturias, Heir to the Spanish Crown.

The Foundation, whose Honorary President is HRH the Prince of Asturias, is a non-profit institution whose aims are to further consolidate the existing ties between the Prince and the Principality of Asturias, and the promotion of Sciences, Technology, Arts and Letters.

For further information contact:

Shaun Griffin/Tony Samphier
Wellcome Trust media office
Tel: 020 7611 7328 or 8612
Fax: 020 7611 8416
Email:press.office@wellcome.ac.uk

Don Powell
Sanger Centre Press Office
Tel 01223 494956
Fax 01223 494714
Email:don@sanger.ac.uk

Sanger Institute Contact Information:

Don Powell Press Officer
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Hinxton, Cambs, CB10 1SA, UK

Tel +44 (0)1223 496 928
Mobile +44 (0)7753 7753 97
Fax +44 (0)1223 494 919
Email press.office@sanger.ac.uk

* quick link - http://q.sanger.ac.uk/4c0gpds8