2014 Gruber Genetics Prize
Victor Ambros, PhD, 60, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts; David Baulcombe, PhD, 62, a plant geneticist and professor of botany at the University of Cambridge; and Gary Ruvkun, PhD, 62, professor of genetics at Harvard University, are pioneers in the study of small non-coding RNAs, molecules that are recognized as playing a critical role in regulating gene expression. While working both independently and collaboratively, Ambros and Ruvkun identified the existence of microRNAs in animals and how they repress genes whose activities are essential for development. Baulcombe established that small RNAs perform a similar silencing process in plants. These discoveries launched an exciting new field of scientific research with wide-ranging implications for human health and disease and for improving agricultural production.