Dr Sydney Brenner
Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
Dr Sydney Brenner is currently Scientific Advisor to the Chairman of A*STAR. He is also Head of the Molecular Engineering Laboratory (MEL) and a Senior Fellow at A*STAR.
Dr Brenner received his education in South Africa where he graduated in Biological Sciences and Medicine. He received his D. Phil in Physical Chemistry from Oxford University in 1954, and then went to the US as a Carnegie Corporation Fellow, working at Cold Spring Harbor and the University of California in Berkeley before returning to South Africa. An earlier meeting with Francis Crick and James Watson in Cambridge in 1953, led to his return to England from South Africa in 1957. He then joined the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit in the Cavendish Laboratory, the predecessor of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). He served as Director of LMB from 1975 to 1986, when he left to found the MRC Molecular Genetics Unit in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Medicine and was its Director until 1992 when he retired.
His early research was in molecular genetics working with bacteriophages of bacteria. He is known for his breakthrough work in the 1960s; he discovered messenger RNA (with Francois Jacob and Matthew Meselson), and with Francis Crick showed that the code was composed of triplets. His major work was to introduce the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, as a model organism for the study of development and the structure and function of a small nervous system. He initiated research on the compact genome of the puffer fish and led the team in Singapore, which published the draft sequence of the genome. Because of growing interest in large genome sequences, he was the first, together with Sam Eletr, to invent new methods of large scale DNA sequencing. His main research today is on evolution studied by genome sequencing.
Dr Brenner has been associated with Singapore’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) since its very beginning and has seen it grow into the world-class institution it has become today. In 2000, he joined Mr Philip Yeo in the second phase of building scientific research and development in Singapore in A*STAR and he continues in this work today. For his contributions to the development of the life sciences in Singapore, Dr Brenner received the Distinguished Friends of Singapore Award in 2000 and was appointed an Honorary Citizen of Singapore in 2003.
Dr Brenner’s research has been recognised by many awards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (1965), a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy (1977), External Scientific Member of the Max-Planck Society (1988), and Associe Etranger, Academie des Sciences, Paris 1992. He has received two Lasker Prizes (1971 and 2000), two Gairdner International awards (1978 and 1991), and the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine (2002) with Drs H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston. He is a Companion of Honour of the United Kingdom and was conferred in 2017 the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Government of Japan, in recognition of his instrumental role in establishing the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University as an internationally reputed research facility.