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Nobel Prize Winner And Kentucky Native On His Life In Science

Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

Kentucky native Phillip Sharp, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and biologist is in Louisville Monday. He’s speaking at a Kentucky to the World event about his journey from growing up on a northern Kentucky farm to becoming a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

Sharp's work has focused on how genes express themselves as it relates to cancer, and pioneered work on RNA splicing. A discovery in 1977 that mammalian cells can have "discontinuous genes" changed how scientists viewed the genetic causes of cancer — for that, he won a Nobel Prize in 1993.

Sharp is currently an Institute Professor — the highest rank — at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He spoke with me about his journey as well where research in biology is headed. You can listen to our conversation in the media player above.

Sharp on his inspiration:

"The most important thing in my decision to become a scientist is my absolute fascination with what I could learn by reading science and thinking about science and how I could use the tools of mathematics to study science. As I became more and more involved, my friends turned to me to answer questions and it just became part of my identity."

On the future of research:

"The future of biotechnology is almost unlimited. We're making major progress in things like new treatment for cancer and new ways to manage genetic diseases. But we are also making progress in new ways of producing plants in our agriculture and new ways to improve our environment, even create energy sources."

Sharp speaks tonight at the Bomhard Theater in conjunction with Kentucky to the World. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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