Thomas Steitz Honoured with Japanese Science Prize -- MEDICA Trade Fair

The award included an honorarium of 20 million yen, a certificate of merit in recognition of his outstanding achievement on the structural basis of the large ribosomal subunit function and drug development, and a commemorative symposium.

Steitz was honoured for research he led that in 2000 produced the first X-ray crystallographic imaging of the large ribosomal subunit. From this work, he and his collaborators have gone on to identify the structural basis of antibiotic drug function and resistance associated with this fundamental cellular structure. They have founded Rib-X, a company developing a new family of antibiotics intended to combat bacteria that have become drug-resistant.

“We had been studying the fundamentals of DNA replication, RNA transcription and reverse transcription, and protein synthesis. The ability to visualize this cellular machine gave us a whole new way to look at how bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics,” said Steitz.

“When antibiotics work they cure the patient,” said Steitz. Many antibiotics work by blocking a ribosome function that stops bacteria from propagating by interfering with their ability to make proteins. The work of Steitz and his Yale colleague Peter B. Moore, Sterling Professor of Chemistry, shed light on the specific molecular interactions involved between antibiotic and ribosome, and then further the molecular changes that bacteria evolve to become resistant.

While Steitz is interested in developing new strategies for effective antibiotics, he stresses that misuse of antibiotics is a leading cause for the development of resistance and that since bacteria divide so rapidly, people must be responsible when using antibiotics because “evolution will trump intelligent design.”; Source: Yale University