Prize tips Britons for Nobel honours

September 9, 2005

Two British scientists are to receive a Lasker award - the prestigious American medical research prize that is seen as a predictor of future Nobel laureates, The Times Higher can reveal.

It is understood that Sir Alec Jeffreys, the discoverer of DNA fingerprinting, and Ed Southern, who developed a revolutionary genetic analysis technique known as Southern blotting, have each won a Lasker.

The identity of the award winners is supposed to remain secret until a ceremony on September 17. More than half of Lasker winners go on to win a Nobel prize.

Both Sir Alec, who is based in Leicester University's department of genetics, and Professor Southern, who works in the biochemistry department at Oxford University, are considered to be long overdue for an honour of this calibre.

Dame Nancy Rothwell, the vice-president for research at Manchester University, said: "Alec is hugely respected and greatly liked. Despite his huge talents, he is extremely down to earth. The academic community will be delighted."

In the plenary lecture of the International Association of Forensic Sciences two weeks ago, Jim Fraser, president of the Forensic Science Society, echoed previous calls for Professor Jeffreys to receive a Nobel prize.

He said this week: "To say that genetic fingerprinting is revolutionary is no overstatement. It has radically changed forensic science, policing, the justice system and government policymaking on crime."

Adrian Bird, professor of genetics at Edinburgh University, said of Professor Southern: "People will welcome (his winning of) this award more than they welcome most of these prizes."

Neither Sir Alec nor Professor Southern would comment before the official announcement of the award winners.

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