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A bunch of flowers for the ESRF


A reception for Ada Yonath, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry this year, took place at the ESRF on 5 November.

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“People ask what has happened in my life recently and the first thing that I can say is that I got a lot of flowers” said Ada Yonath, recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, last night at the reception in her honour at the ESRF. Also a member of the ESRF Science Advisory Committee, she expressed “sincere thanks to the ESRF, that accepted me also when it was almost clear that it would not work and which (nonetheless) let me try again and again and improved the beamlines according to my comments constantly”. Finally, after thirty years of work, the structure of the ribosome became a reality.

Ada Yonath, from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, Venki Ramakrishnan, from the Medical Research Council in the UK, and Thomas Steitz, from Yale University, share the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Yonath and Ramakrishnan are dynamic users of the ESRF structural biology beamlines since many years now, and the Nobel hasn’t slowed down their activity. Yonath and her team will bring some very tiny crystals to the microfocus beamline ID23.2 later in November, and Ramakrishnan has just published two papers in Science, one of them based practically exclusively on data collected at beamline ID14 (see also: How the genetic code is accurately translated into protein). In these articles, his team reveals in atomic detail the choreography of how two key catalysts swoop into the heart of the ribosome, tossing off amino acids so as they can be tacked onto the end of a protein chain grown by the ribosome.

There is plenty of more work to do, and the ESRF is confident to continue being part of the story.

Top image: One of the bouquets that Ada Yonath received and that she offered to the ESRF.