Long-time visiting scientist at U.W. Friday Harbor Labs wins Nobel Prize
October 8, 2008 · Updated 1:08 PM
A long-time visiting scientist at the U.W. Friday Harbor Labs has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering a luminous green substance in jellyfish that redefined the way researchers uncover biological processes.
Osamu Shimomura, now professor emeritus at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., first isolated the green fluorescent protein, or GFP, in jellyfish 46 years ago, the Nobel Foundation said. He conducted research at the U.W. Friday Harbor Labs for about 20 summers between 1961 and 1988.
He shares the prize with Martin Chalfie, a Columbia University professor, who showed that the protein can be used in other cells; and Roger Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, who developed different colors to allow several processes to be followed at the same time.
The jellyfish emits a bioluminescent flash. Scientists use the proteins that cause that flash to illuminate cells in experiments and observe how they function in disease or health.
It's the third Nobel Prize associated with San Juan Island and the second associated with the U.W. Friday Harbor Labs.
Linda B. Buck, formerly of Friday Harbor, shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for "discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system." Buck, former daughter-in-law of Barbara Buck and the late Robert Buck, is now associated with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and an affiliate professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Washington.
George Hitchings (1905-1998), worked at the U.W. Friday Harbor Labs in 1927 and received a master's degree the next year for his thesis based on that work. He shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for "discoveries of important principles for drug treatment."
A detailed story on Shimomura is being developed by Claudia Mills of the U.W. Friday Harbor Labs and will be posted when received, as well as published in the Oct. 15 Journal of the San Juan Islands.