Venki Ramakrishnan
Ramakrishnan in 2015
62nd President of the Royal Society
In office
1 December 2015 – 30 November 2020
Preceded byPaul Nurse
Succeeded byAdrian Smith
Personal details
Venkatraman Ramakrishnan

1952 (age 71–72)
Chidambaram, Madras State (now Tamil Nadu), India
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Vera Rosenberry
(m. 1975)
RelativesLalita Ramakrishnan (sister)
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
Known for
Academic background
Alma materOhio University
ThesisThe Green Function Theory of the Ferroelectric Phase Transition in Potassium Dihydrogen-Phosphate (1976)
Doctoral advisorTomoyasu Tanaka[1][3]
Academic work
School or tradition

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (born 1952) is a British-American structural biologist. He shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath for research on the structure and function of ribosomes.[6][9][10][11]

Since 1999, he has worked as a group leader at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, UK and is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.[12][13][14][15][16] He served as President of the Royal Society from 2015 to 2020.[17]

Education and early life

Ramakrishnan was born in 1952 in Chidambaram in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India.

His parents, Prof. C. V. Ramakrishnan and Prof. Rajalakshmi Ramakrishnan were both scientists,[18][19] and his father was head of the department of biochemistry at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.[1][20] At the time of his birth, Ramakrishnan's father was away from India doing postdoctoral research with David E. Green at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the US.[1] Ramakrishnan's mother obtained a PhD in psychology from McGill University in 1959,[21] completing it in only 18 months, and was mentored, among others, by Donald O. Hebb.[1]

Ramakrishnan has one sibling, his younger sister Lalita Ramakrishnan, who is professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the department of medicine, University of Cambridge,[22] and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[23]

Ramakrishnan moved to Vadodara (previously also known as Baroda) in Gujarat at the age of three, where he had his entire schooling at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, except for a year and a half (1960–61) which he and his family spent in Adelaide, Australia. Following his pre-science at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, he did his undergraduate studies in the same university on a National Science Talent Scholarship, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1971.[10] At the time, the physics course at Baroda was new, and based in part on the Berkeley Physics Course and The Feynman Lectures on Physics.[1]

Immediately after graduation he moved to the US, where he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in physics from Ohio University in 1976 for research into the ferroelectric phase transition of potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP)[24] supervised by Tomoyasu Tanaka.[3][25][26] Then he spent two years studying biology as a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego while making a transition from theoretical physics to biology.[27]

Career and research

Ramakrishnan began work on ribosomes as a postdoctoral fellow with Peter Moore at Yale University.[10] After his post-doctoral fellowship, he initially could not find a faculty position even though he had applied to about 50 universities in the United States.[28][29]

He continued to work on ribosomes from 1983 to 1995 as a staff scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.[4]

In 1995, he moved to the University of Utah as a professor of biochemistry, and in 1999, he moved to his current position at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, where he had also been a sabbatical visitor during 1991–92 on a Guggenheim Fellowship.[citation needed]

In 1999, Ramakrishnan's laboratory published a 5.5 angstrom resolution structure of the 30S subunit. The following year, his laboratory determined the complete molecular structure of the 30S subunit of the ribosome and its complexes with several antibiotics. This was followed by studies that provided structural insights into the mechanism that ensures the fidelity of protein biosynthesis. In 2007, his laboratory determined the atomic structure of the whole ribosome in complex with its tRNA and mRNA ligands. Since 2013, he has used Cryogenic electron microscopy to work primarily on eukaryotic and mitochondrial translation.[30][31] Ramakrishnan is also known for his past work on histone and chromatin structure.

As of 2019 his most cited papers (according to Google Scholar[32]) have been published in Nature,[33][34][35] Science,[36][37] and Cell.[38][39][40]

Presidency of the Royal Society

Ramakrishnan's term as president of the Royal Society from 2015-2020 was dominated by Brexit and, in his final year, the COVID-19 pandemic and its response.[41] In an interview in July 2018, he said that Britain's decision to leave the European Union was hurting Britain's reputation as a good place to work in science, commenting "It's very hard for the science community to see any advantages in Brexit. They are pretty blunt about that." He saw advantages to both the UK and the EU for Britain to continue to be engaged in Galileo and Euratom, which, unlike the European Medicines Agency, are not EU agencies.[42]

Ramakrishnan argued that a no-deal Brexit would harm science. Ramakrishnan wrote, "A deal on science is in the best interests of Europe as a whole and should not be sacrificed as collateral damage over disagreements on other issues. If we are going to successfully tackle global problems like climate change, human disease and food security, we can't do so in isolation. There is no scenario where trashing our relationships with our closest scientific collaborators in the EU gets us closer to these goals."[43]

Awards and honours

Ramakrishnan at the Nobel Prize Press conference in 2009
The President, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting Padma Vibhushan Award to Dr. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, at the Civil Investiture Ceremony-I, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on March 31, 2010

Ramakrishnan was elected a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2002,[44] a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2003,[45] and a Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2004.

In 2007, Ramakrishnan was awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine[7] and the Datta Lectureship and Medal of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS).

Ramakrishnan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009, along with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath.[46] He received India's second highest civilian honor, the Padma Vibhushan, in 2010.[47]

In 2008, Ramakrishnan won the Heatley Medal of the British Biochemical Society, and became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and a foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy. He has been a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and[48] an Honorary Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (Hon FMedSci) since 2010.

He has received honorary degrees from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, University of Utah, Ohio University and University of Cambridge. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,[49] Somerville College, Oxford,[50] and The Queen's College, Oxford.[51]

Ramakrishnan was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to molecular biology,[5] but does not generally use the title "Sir". That same year, he was awarded the Sir Hans Krebs Medal by the FEBS. In 2014, he was awarded the XLVI Jiménez-Díaz Prize by the Fundación Conchita Rábago (Spain).

In 2017, Ramakrishnan received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[52]

Ramakrishnan was included as one of 25 Greatest Global Living Indians by NDTV Channel, India on 14 December 2013.

His certificate of election to the Royal Society reads:

Ramakrishnan is internationally recognised for determination of the atomic structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit. Earlier he mapped the arrangement of proteins in the 30S subunit by neutron diffraction and solved X-ray structures of individual components and their RNA complexes. Fundamental insights came from his crystallographic studies of the complete 30S subunit. The atomic model included over 1500 bases of RNA and 20 associated proteins. The RNA interactions representing the P-site tRNA and the mRNA binding site were identified and the likely modes of action of many clinically important antibiotics determined. His most recent work goes to the heart of the decoding mechanism showing the 30S subunit complexed with poly-U mRNA and the stem-loop of the cognate phenylalanine tRNA. Anti-codon recognition leaves the "wobble" base free to accommodate certain non-Watson/Crick basepairs, thus providing an atomic description of both codon:anti-codon recognition and "wobble". He has also made substantial contributions to understanding how chromatin is organised, particularly the structure of linker histones and their role in higher order folding.[53]

In 2020, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society[54] and became a board member of The British Library.[55]

Ramakrishnan was made a Member of the Order of Merit (OM) in 2022.[8]

Personal life

In 1975, Ramakrishnan married Vera Rosenberry, an author and illustrator of children's books.[1] He has a step-daughter, Tanya Kapka, a physician specializing in public health and health-care delivery to under-served communities; and a son, Raman Ramakrishnan, a cellist specializing in chamber music and professor at Bard College.[56]

Selected publications


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan – Biography: From Chidambaram to Cambridge: A Life in Science". Stockholm. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  2. ^ Anon (2015). "Ramakrishnan, Sir Venkatraman". Who's Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U45543. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b Ramakrishnan, Venkatraman; Tanaka, Tomoyasu (1977). "Green's-function theory of the ferroelectric phase transition in potassium dihydrogen phosphate (KDP)". Physical Review B. 16 (1): 422–426. Bibcode:1977PhRvB..16..422R. doi:10.1103/physrevb.16.422.
  4. ^ a b Cerf, Corinne; Lippens, Guy; Muyldermans, Serge; Segers, Alain; Ramakrishnan, V.; Wodak, Shoshana J.; Hallenga, Klaas; Wyns, Lode (1993). "Homo- and heteronuclear two-dimensional NMR". Biochemistry. 32 (42): 11345–11351. doi:10.1021/bi00093a011. PMID 8218199.
  5. ^ a b "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 1.
  6. ^ a b "2009 Chemistry Nobel Laureates". Nobel Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  7. ^ a b Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, Accessed 30 December 2022.
  8. ^ a b His Majesty The King (11 November 2022). "New Appointments to the Order of Merit". Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  9. ^ Rodnina, Marina V.; Wintermeyer, Wolfgang (2010). "The ribosome goes Nobel". Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 35 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2009.11.003. PMID 19962317.
  10. ^ a b c "Venkatraman_Ramakrishnan". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 19 April 2015.
  11. ^ Venkatraman Ramakrishnan Audio Interview Official Nobel Foundation website telephone interview
  12. ^ Nair, Prashant (2011). "Profile of Venkatraman Ramakrishnan". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108 (38): 15676–15678. Bibcode:2011PNAS..10815676N. doi:10.1073/pnas.1113044108. PMC 3179092. PMID 21914843. Open access icon
  13. ^ "Biologist Venki Ramakrishnan to lead Royal Society". BBC News. London. 18 March 2015. Archived from the original on 10 October 2015.
  14. ^ James, Nathan Rhys (2017). Structural insights into noncanonical mechanisms of translation. (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. doi:10.17863/CAM.13713. OCLC 1064932062. EThOS Free access icon
  15. ^ Venki Ramakrishnan Official website Edit this at Wikidata
  16. ^ Ramakrishnan, Venki (2018). Gene machine. The race to decipher the secrets of the ribosome. London: Oneworld. ISBN 9781786074362. OCLC 1080631601.
  17. ^ Peplow, M. (2015). "Structural biologist named president of UK Royal Society". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2015.17153. S2CID 112623895.
  18. ^ "Common root: Tamil Nadu gets its third laureate". Times of India. TNN. 8 October 2009.
  19. ^ "Venki Ramakrishnan, Ph.D." American Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  20. ^ Ramakrishnan, C. V.; Banerjee, B. N. (1951). "Mould Lipase: Effect of Addition of Vitamins and Sterol to the Cake Medium on the Growth and the Activity of the Lipolytic Mould". Nature. 168 (4282): 917–918. Bibcode:1951Natur.168..917R. doi:10.1038/168917a0. PMID 14899529. S2CID 4244697.
  21. ^ Ramakrishnan, Rajalakshmi (1959). Comparative Effects of Successive and Simultaneous Presentation on Transfer in Verbal Learning (PhD thesis). McGill University. ProQuest 301865011.
  22. ^ "Lalita Ramakrishnan Home page in Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge".
  23. ^ "Lalita Ramakrishnan elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  24. ^ Ramakrishnan, Venkatraman (1976). The Green function theory of the ferroelectric phase transition in KDP (PhD thesis). Ohio University. OCLC 3079828. ProQuest 302809453.
  25. ^ "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: a profile". Times of India. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  26. ^ "Factbox: Nobel chemistry prize – Who are the winners?". Reuters. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  27. ^ "Profile: Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan". Indian Express. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  28. ^ "Nobel laureate Venkat Ramakrishnan failed IIT, medical entrance tests". The Times of India. 5 January 2010.
  29. ^ "Venki Ramakrishnan, Ph.D. Biography and Interview". American Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  30. ^ Fernández, Israel S.; Bai, Xiao-Chen; Hussain, Tanweer; Kelley, Ann C.; Lorsch, Jon R.; Ramakrishnan, V.; Scheres, Sjors H. W. (15 November 2013). "Molecular architecture of a eukaryotic translational initiation complex". Science. 342 (6160): 1240585. doi:10.1126/science.1240585. ISSN 1095-9203. PMC 3836175. PMID 24200810.
  31. ^ Amunts, Alexey; Brown, Alan; Bai, Xiao-Chen; Llácer, Jose L.; Hussain, Tanweer; Emsley, Paul; Long, Fei; Murshudov, Garib; Scheres, Sjors H. W. (28 March 2014). "Structure of the yeast mitochondrial large ribosomal subunit". Science. 343 (6178): 1485–1489. Bibcode:2014Sci...343.1485A. doi:10.1126/science.1249410. ISSN 1095-9203. PMC 4046073. PMID 24675956.
  32. ^ Venki Ramakrishnan publications indexed by Google Scholar
  33. ^ Ramakrishnan, V.; Wimberly, Brian T.; Brodersen, Ditlev E.; Clemons, William M.; Morgan-Warren, Robert J.; Carter, Andrew P.; Vonrhein, Clemens; Hartsch, Thomas (2000). "Structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit". Nature. 407 (6802): 327–339. Bibcode:2000Natur.407..327W. doi:10.1038/35030006. PMID 11014182. S2CID 4419944.
  34. ^ Ramakrishnan, V.; Carter, Andrew P.; Clemons, William M.; Brodersen, Ditlev E.; Morgan-Warren, Robert J.; Wimberly, Brian T. (2000). "Functional insights from the structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its interactions with antibiotics". Nature. 407 (6802): 340–348. Bibcode:2000Natur.407..340C. doi:10.1038/35030019. PMID 11014183. S2CID 4408938.
  35. ^ Ramakrishnan, V.; Finch, J. T.; Graziano, V.; Lee, P. L.; Sweet, R. M. (1993). "Crystal structure of globular domain of histone H5 and its implications for nucleosome binding". Nature. 362 (6417): 219–223. Bibcode:1993Natur.362..219R. doi:10.1038/362219a0. PMID 8384699. S2CID 4301198.
  36. ^ Selmer, M. (2006). "Structure of the 70S Ribosome Complexed with mRNA and tRNA". Science. 313 (5795): 1935–1942. Bibcode:2006Sci...313.1935S. doi:10.1126/science.1131127. PMID 16959973. S2CID 9737925.
  37. ^ Ogle, J. M. (2001). "Recognition of Cognate Transfer RNA by the 30S Ribosomal Subunit". Science. 292 (5518): 897–902. Bibcode:2001Sci...292..897O. doi:10.1126/science.1060612. PMID 11340196. S2CID 10743202.
  38. ^ Ramakrishnan, V. (2002). "Ribosome Structure and the Mechanism of Translation". Cell. 108 (4): 557–572. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(02)00619-0. PMID 11909526. S2CID 2078757.
  39. ^ Brodersen, Ditlev E.; Clemons, William M.; Carter, Andrew P.; Morgan-Warren, Robert J.; Wimberly, Brian T.; Ramakrishnan, V. (2000). "The Structural Basis for the Action of the Antibiotics Tetracycline, Pactamycin, and Hygromycin B on the 30S Ribosomal Subunit". Cell. 103 (7): 1143–1154. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(00)00216-6. PMID 11163189. S2CID 7763859.
  40. ^ Ogle, James M.; Murphy, Frank V.; Tarry, Michael J.; Ramakrishnan, V. (2002). "Selection of tRNA by the Ribosome Requires a Transition from an Open to a Closed Form". Cell. 111 (5): 721–732. doi:10.1016/s0092-8674(02)01086-3. PMID 12464183. S2CID 10784644.
  41. ^ Clive Cookson (20 November 2020). "'Voice of British science fights for future of UK research'". The Financial Times.
  42. ^ Ian Tucke (15 July 2018). "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: 'Britain's reputation has been hurt'". The Guardian.
  43. ^ A no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for the UK science community, The Independent. Accessed 30 December 2022.
  44. ^ "The EMBO Pocket Directory" (PDF). European Molecular Biology Organization. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2015.
  45. ^ "Sir Venki Ramakrishnan FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015.
  46. ^ "All Nobel Laureates in Chemistry". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  47. ^ "This Year's Padma Awards announced" (Press release). Ministry of Home Affairs. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  48. ^ "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan". German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  49. ^ "Honorary Fellows".
  50. ^ "Emeritus and Honorary Fellows". Somerville College, Oxford. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  51. ^ "Honorary & Supernumary Fellows". The Queen's College, Oxford.
  52. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
  53. ^ "Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: Certificate of Election EC/2003/31". London: The Royal Society. 2003. Archived from the original on 5 May 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  54. ^ "The American Philosophical Society Welcomes New Members for 2020".
  55. ^ "Venki Ramakrishnan appointed to the British Library Board". The British Library. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  56. ^ Amit Roy (17 October 2009). "'Venki' makes light of India link – Winner says not to treat science like cricket; league of misses grows". The Telegraph (Kolkata). Archived from the original on 22 October 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  57. ^ "Why we die—and how we can live longer, with Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan". University of Chicago News. 2024. Archived from the original on 26 April 2024.
Professional and academic associations Preceded byPaul Nurse 62nd President of the Royal Society 2015–2020 Succeeded byAdrian Smith