Through his original discovery that the genetic information in DNA is interspersed with apparently meaningless sequences known as "introns," Dr. Sharp recognized that this information needs to be edited into useful form before the cell's machinery can follow genetic instructions.
In an elegant series of experiments using cells infected with adenovirus, Dr. Sharp and his colleagues discovered that after an RNA copy is made from a DNA sequence, the introns are discarded from the RNA, leaving behind the portions carrying the meaningful genetic information. With astonishing precision, these fragments then splice themselves together to form a single coherent unit of RNA, which carries the precise information needed for the cell's protein-making apparatus.
Since these findings were published in 1977, the availability of recombinant DNA methods has made it possible for Dr. Sharp and other investigators to pursue detailed research on the way in which genetic information is processed at the RNA level.
Dr. Sharp also developed the most widely used method of RNA mapping. In a number of generous and inspiring collaborations with others, he investigated the small particles of RNA present in the nuclei of cells and demonstrated that these particles are involved in the splicing process.
The processing activities of RNA are so fundamental to life that no area of medicine or biology will be untouched by the implications of Dr. Sharp's research.
To Dr. Sharp, for his series of revelations regarding the ability of RNA processing to convert DNA's massive store of genetic data to biological use, this 1988 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award is given.