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Image via WikipediaIn 1961, Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole discovered the green fluorescent protein that gives the Aequoria Victoria jellyfish its glow. In the 1980s, Prasher began working with the protein, designated as GFP, after hypothesizing the gene responsible for the protein’s fluorescent properties could be used to help view formerly invisible molecular functions.
After the American Cancer Society gave Prasher a $220,000 grant in 1988, he set about isolating and copying the GFP gene.
That caught the attention of Martin Chalfie, another of the Nobel Prize winners announced this week. The Columbia University researcher said yesterday that the organism he was working with at the time was transparent, and he hoped Prasher’s work on the luminescent jellyfish protein would provide a way for him to see its molecular functions.
Four years later, as Prasher’s grant dried up and he was no longer able to continue his own research, he voluntarily gave samples of the GFP gene to Chalfie.
The cloned gene was also given to Roger Tsien, the third Nobel Prize winner, who has been in the forefront of fluorescent protein research ever since.
“(Prasher’s) work was critical and essential for the work we did in our lab,” Chalfie said. “They could’ve easily given the prize to Douglas and the other two and left me out.”
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