The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation proudly presents the 2011 Genetics Prize to Ronald W. Davis, a pioneer in the development and application of recombinant-DNA techniques.
Davis discovered that the EcoRI restriction endonuclease generates “sticky” ends when it cleaves DNA and, based on this discovery, developed highly efficient systems for producing, propagating, and screening recombinant-DNA clones in Escherichia coli. This technology shaped later approaches to the study of the human and other genomes.
Using the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as host, Davis designed recombinant-DNA molecules whose genetic behavior could be precisely controlled. During this work, he discovered the first eukaryotic replication origins, the autonomously replicating sequences, and carried out the first targeted deletion of a gene. Throughout his career—by training students, communicating openly with colleagues, and leading through the example of his own research—Davis has profoundly influenced the way scientists study the molecular basis of life.