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Richard Axel

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Richard Axel, M.D. (born July 2, 1946, New York City) is an American scientist whose work on the olfactory system won him and Linda B. Buck, a former post-doctoral scientist in his research group, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004.

In their landmark paper published in 1991, Buck and Axel cloned olfactory receptors, showing that they belong to the family of G protein coupled receptors. By analyzing rat DNA, they estimated that there were approximately one thousand different genes for olfactory receptors in the mammalian genome. This research opened the door to the genetic and molecular analysis of the mechanisms of olfaction. In their later work, Buck and Axel have shown that each olfactory receptor neuron remarkably only expresses one kind of olfactory receptor protein and that the input of from all neurons expressing the same receptor is collected by a single dedicated glomerulus of the olfactory bulb.

Born in New York City, New York, Axel graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1963, received his A.B. in 1967 from Columbia University, and his M.D. in 1971 from Johns Hopkins University. He returned to Columbia later that year and became a full professor in 1978.

During the late 1970's, Axel, along with microbiologist Saul J. Silverstein, and geneticist Michael H. Wigler, discovered a technique of cotransformation, a process which allows foreign DNA to be inserted into a host cell to produce certain proteins. Patents, now colloquially referred to as the "Axel patents", covering this technique were filed for February 1980 and were issued in August 1983. As a fundamental process in recombinant DNA research as performed at pharmaceutical and biotech companies, this patent proved quite lucrative for Columbia University, earning it almost $100 million a year at one time, and a top spot on the list of top universities by licensing revenue. The Axel patents expired in August 2000.

Axel's primary research interest is on how the brain interprets the sense of smell, specifically mapping the parts of the brain that are sensitive to specific olfactory receptors. He holds the titles of University Professor at Columbia University, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of Pathology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Key PapersEdit

This is the paper in which Linda Buck & Richard Axel fist describe the discovery of the odorant receptors, which was the basis for their shared Nobel Prize.

These are the papers describing DNA transfection, a critical tool for the entire revolution in biology, in which genes can be modified and then stably transferred into cells. This paper was the basis for the "Axel patent" which at one time brought Columbia University as much as $100 million per year.

The rest of the papers are in chronological orderEdit

  • Gene switching and the stability of odorant receptor gene choice. Cell, 117, 801–815

External linksEdit

Template:Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Laureates 2001-2025

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