2015 #NobelPrize in Chemistry for Mechanistic Studies of DNA Repair

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to:

Tomas Lindahl
Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, Hertfordshire, UK

Paul Modrich
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, USA


Aziz Sancar
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

For their mechanistic studies on DNA repair. (As a Turkish chemistry major from UNC, huge shoutout to Sancar for this accomplishment… perhaps it’s a sign for me?)


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 is awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for having mapped, at a molecular level, how cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard the genetic information. Their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments.

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How A Tilt Toward Safety Stopped A Scientist’s Virus Research

A great piece by NPR.  UNC (woohoo Tarheels!) researcher Ralph Baric had been investigating MERS (Middle East Respiratory Virus) until a recent government moratorium halting that kind of research.

If this virus mutates so that it spreads easily through the air, millions could die. “It would go around the globe quickly, and this would result in high morbidity and mortality, disruption of the economy, and, in some cases, the collapse of governments,” says Baric.

That’s why researchers want to learn as much as they can about MERS. It’s a type of virus called a coronavirus, which is the special focus of Baric’s lab.

However, a recent decision from the Obama administration has decided to stop govt-funded research on this virus, and also on influenza and SARS.

The Obama administration was concerned about any research that could make the viruses more dangerous, so they wanted to stop and review studies to see if they could make these germs capable of causing more disease or spreading easily through the air.

“I don’t think it’s wise or appropriate for us to create large risks that don’t already exist,” saysDavid Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University.

Ad for for Baric,

Asked if his lab is creating any new forms of these viruses that would be more dangerous for people, Baric replied: “Absolutely not. And we do more genetics in than probably anyone else in the world.”

He says he may not ultimately agree with whatever guidelines are put in place, but “if that’s what it takes to continue the research, then that’s what we’ll do. Ultimately we are responsive to the public.”

What do YOU think?  Is this type of research too dangerous? Is the moratorium a good idea? Or is the government overstepping its bounds?  Participate in the poll, and let us know!


If you support scientific research, then Stephanie Gupton’s #ALSIceBucketChallenge is the best one yet!! #science

Stephanie Gupton, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell Biology & Physiology at UNC, took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but in a very different way and for very different reasons. While CauseScience fully supports the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we have also posted about how the challenge highlights the recent struggle for funding for ALL scientific research. Kudos to Dr. Gupton for starting the ‘new’ Ice Bucket Challenge for awareness of the horrific state of science funding. Go ahead and start posting your ice buckets!!!

In response to the ALS ice bucket challenge I would like to show you my ice bucket for basic science research. Unfortunately, I am stuck in my office, writing grant after grant to fund my lab, and have no time to actually be at the lab bench and perform experiments. So instead this is a picture of my graduate student’s ice bucket. My lab does basic research to find out how neurons, the cells in your brain that signal and mediate your behavior, learning and memory, acquire their functional shape during embryonic development. This is basic research that seeks to define fundamental cell processes. While it isn’t directed toward curing a specific disease, our hope is that a better understanding of how neurons develop and function will be the foundation for future therapeutic improvements and understanding of neurodevelopmental syndromes, neurodegeneration, and nerve injuries.


Today, a generation of scientific explorers is unable to launch research programs due to inflation and federal budget cuts. As time goes on there will be fewer and fewer stories like these to tell, and progress managing health challenges will slow. Everyone, scientist or not, can be a good citizen and let their representatives in Congress know how important basic, foundational research funding is to scientist and non-scientist alike. Make a phone call to your senators and representative. Write them a letter. Here’s a link to get you started: