Richard J. Roberts
Richard John Roberts

(1943-09-06) 6 September 1943 (age 80)[3]
Derby, England
Alma materUniversity of Sheffield (BSc, PhD)
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsMolecular biology
ThesisPhytochemical studies involving neoflavanoids and isoflavanoids (1969)

Sir Richard John Roberts FRS[4] (born 6 September 1943) is a British biochemist and molecular biologist. He was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Phillip Allen Sharp for the discovery of introns in eukaryotic DNA and the mechanism of gene-splicing. He currently works at New England Biolabs.[8][9][10]

Early life and education

Roberts was born in Derby, the son of Edna (Allsop) and John Roberts, an auto mechanic.[11] When he was four, Roberts' family moved to Bath. In Bath, he attended City of Bath Boys' School.[11] As a child he at first wanted to be a detective and then, when given a chemistry set, a chemist. In 1965 he graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry followed by a PhD in 1969.[3] His thesis involved phytochemical studies of neoflavonoids and isoflavonoids.[12][13]

Career and research

During 1969–1972, he did postdoctoral research at Harvard University.[11] before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,[14] where he was hired by James Dewey Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and a fellow Nobel laureate. In this period he also visited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology for the first time, working alongside Fred Sanger.[15] In 1977, he published his discovery of RNA splicing.[14] In 1992, he moved to New England Biolabs.[11] The following year, he shared a Nobel Prize with his former colleague at Cold Spring Harbor Phillip Allen Sharp.[16]

Roberts's discovery of the alternative splicing of genes, in particular, has had a profound impact on the study and applications of molecular biology.[4] The realisation that individual genes could exist as separate, disconnected segments within longer strands of DNA first arose in his 1977 study of adenovirus,[14] one of the viruses responsible for causing the common cold. Robert's research in this field resulted in a fundamental shift in our understanding of genetics, and has led to the discovery of split genes in higher organisms, including human beings.[4][10]

Awards and honours

In 1992, Roberts received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University, Sweden.[17] After becoming a Nobel laureate in 1993 he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Science) by the University of Bath in 1994.[18] Roberts also received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1994.[19] In 2021 he was awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences.[6]

Roberts was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1995[4] and a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in the same year.[5] In 2005, a multimillion-pound expansion to the chemistry department at the University of Sheffield, where he had been a student, was named after him. A refurbished science department at Beechen Cliff School (previously City of Bath Boys' School) was also named after Roberts, who had donated a substantial sum of his Nobel prize winnings to the school.[20]

Roberts is an atheist and was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[21][22] He was knighted in the 2008 Birthday Honours.[23]

Roberts is a member of the Advisory Board of Patient Innovation,[24] a nonprofit, international, multilingual, free venue for patients and caregivers of any disease to share their innovations.

Roberts has been a keynote speaker at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders (2014, 2015, 2016, 2020).[25]

He also is the chairman of The Laureate Science Alliance, a non-profit supporting research worldwide.

In 2016, Roberts and other Nobelists composed and signed a "Laureates Letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs)" addressed to the leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and global governments and Sir Roberts has advocated for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in general and Golden Rice in particular to advance health in developing countries, noting the high safety record of GM foods.[26][27]


  1. ^ Shampo, M. A.; Kyle, R. A. (2003). "Richard J. Roberts—Nobel Laureate for Discovery of Split Genes". Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 78 (2): 132. doi:10.4065/78.2.132. PMID 12583523.
  2. ^ Carr, Kimberly (1993). "Nobel goes to discoverers of 'split genes'". Nature. 365 (6447): 597. Bibcode:1993Natur.365..597C. doi:10.1038/365597a0. PMID 8413620.
  3. ^ a b c d e "ROBERTS, Sir Richard (John)". Who's Who. Vol. 1995 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b c d e Anon (1995). "Sir Richard Roberts FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:

    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  5. ^ a b Anon (2016). "Richard J. Roberts EMBO profile". Heidelberg: European Molecular Biology Organization.
  6. ^ a b Lomonosov Gold Medal 2021(in Russian)
  7. ^ Roberts, Richard John (2003). "A nomenclature for restriction enzymes, DNA methyltransferases, homing endonucleases and their genes". Nucleic Acids Research. 31 (7): 1805–1812. doi:10.1093/nar/gkg274. PMC 152790. PMID 12654995. Open access icon
  8. ^ Roberts, R. J.; Chang, Y. -C.; Hu, Z.; Rachlin, J. N.; Anton, B. P.; Pokrzywa, R. M.; Choi, H. -P.; Faller, L. L.; Guleria, J.; Housman, G.; Klitgord, N.; Mazumdar, V.; McGettrick, M. G.; Osmani, L.; Swaminathan, R.; Tao, K. R.; Letovsky, S.; Vitkup, D.; Segrè, D.; Salzberg, S. L.; Delisi, C.; Steffen, M.; Kasif, S. (2010). "COMBREX: A project to accelerate the functional annotation of prokaryotic genomes". Nucleic Acids Research. 39 (Database issue): D11–D14. doi:10.1093/nar/gkq1168. PMC 3013729. PMID 21097892.
  9. ^ Roberts, R. J.; Varmus, H. E.; Ashburner, M.; Brown, P. O.; Eisen, M. B.; Khosla, C.; Kirschner, M.; Nusse, R.; Scott, M. (2001). "Information Access: Building A GenBank of the Published Literature". Science. 291 (5512): 2318–9. doi:10.1126/science.1060273. PMID 11269300. S2CID 34395787.
  10. ^ a b Richard J. Roberts's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  11. ^ a b c d Anon (1993). "Richard J. Roberts - Biographical". Nobel Foundation. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  12. ^ Roberts, Richard John (1969). Phytochemical studies involving neoflavanoids and isoflavanoids. (PhD thesis). University of Sheffield. OCLC 270832404.
  13. ^ Richard J. Roberts ORCID 0000-0002-4348-0169
  14. ^ a b c Chow, Louise T.; Gelinas, Richard E.; Broker, Thomas R.; Roberts, Richard J. (1977). "An amazing sequence arrangement at the 5' ends of adenovirus 2 messenger RNA". Cell. 12 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(77)90180-5. PMID 902310. S2CID 2099968.
  15. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1993". Retrieved 14 July 2023.
  16. ^ Klimasauskas, Saulius; Kumar, Sanjay; Roberts, Richard J.; Cheng, Xiaodong (1994). "Hhal methyltransferase flips its target base out of the DNA helix". Cell. 76 (2): 357–369. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(94)90342-5. PMID 8293469. S2CID 23161543.
  17. ^ "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden". 17 August 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Archived from the original on 19 December 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  19. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  20. ^ "Beechen Cliff School website". [dead link]
  21. ^ "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  22. ^ Reville, William (2006). "A bright journey to atheism, or a road that ignores all the signs?". The Irish Times. Dublin. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Patient Innovation
  25. ^ "Speakers". Congress of Future Medical Leaders. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  26. ^ Keith Edmisten (9 July 2018). ""GMOs Are Vital Against Hunger," Says Nobel Laureate Sir Richard J. Roberts".
  27. ^ Ed Regis (8 October 2019). Golden Rice: The Imperiled Birth of a GMO Superfood. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-1421433035.