Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Quotable Sidney Altman Talks at U of O

Nobel prize winner (for discovering the ribozyme activity of RNAse P) Sidney Altman visited from Yale to give a talk at the U of O today on RNA-based therapeutics. The talk started with a tantalizing glimpse of the man's brilliance as he outlined the many unanswered questions regarding the origins of life on Earth. However this brief introduction came to an abrupt end when he declared that neither he nor anyone else currently has any answers to offer, and then proceeded to give a fairly uninspired talk on the therapeutic potential of sequence-specific RNAse P mediated gene knockdown (although now that I write it out it is kind of cool). In spite of this, the question period made attendance well worthwhile, where Altman held no punches.

The best quote came when he was asked if he cared to speculate on how protein-based life evolved in the RNA world. His answer (I paraphrase): "No. No I wouldn't care to speculate. Not because I'm trying to be rude, but because I don't have any good ideas. I have lots of ideas, but they're bad ideas, and there's no point in discussing my bad ideas with you. Actually I don't think anyone has any good ideas yet, and there are a lot of people that are spending most of their time thinking about this problem, whereas I only think about it while I'm in the bathtub. So I certainly have no good ideas."


Ben said...

Weird. I went to a talk yesterday given by Carlo Croce (the guy who discovered Bcl2 and FHIT and largely characterized the basis for Burkitt's and know, really simple stuff) on miRNAs and their roles in cancer and as therapeutic targets. Really, really cool stuff. Also an extremely nice guy.

I guess RNA is the new DNA. You heard it here first.

Ben said...

Oops, here's the actual link to him: Carlo Croce