John Abelson was a postdoc in the Structural Studies Division at LMB from 1965 to 1968, working with Sydney Brenner and Francis Crick on transcription of DNA. His first faculty post was at the University of California, San Diego and in 1982 he joined the faculty at the California Institute of Technology, becoming George Beadle Professor of Biology in 1991. He retired in 2002 and is now Beadle emeritus professor at Caltech.
His work has made possible an understanding of how genomic DNA can be converted to both messenger RNA and transfer RNA, particularly when there are introns present in the genome. He has identified the enzymes that not only cleave genes into fragments, but also has elucidated the mechanisms by which fragments are spliced together to make the functional RNA. This work is of the greatest importance in understanding how genes are regulated and expressed.
In 1978, along with several colleagues, he founded the Agouron Institute, which six years later created Agouron Pharmaceuticals, Inc, of San Diego, which developed the leading drug used for controlling HIV infections. He now serves as President of the Institute.
He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985 and in the same year elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2001 to the American Philosophical Society. He is also a past president of the RNA Society and for the past 15 years has been an editor of Methods in Enzymology. – see