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John Sulston Dies

John Sulston, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002 for his work on cell division and cell death using C. elegans and who led the British effort to sequence the human genome, has died, BBC News reports. He was 75.

As the UK's Times notes, Sulston painstakingly followed every C. elegans cell from its creation to its demise to find that each worm was programmed to develop in the same way. Sulston shared the Nobel with the Molecular Sciences Institute's Sydney Brenner and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Robert Horvitz.

But the BBC notes that Sulston is best known for leading the UK arm of the Human Genome Project, which sequenced about a third of the human genome. This, Times adds, which pitted him against Celera Genomics' Craig Venter and his commercial sequencing effort. The Times says Sulston and Venter "locked horns" as Sulston, a "quintessential 'lefty'" fought against gene patents and for making the results publicly available.

Sulston also help found the Sanger Centre and served as its director between 1992 and 2000. "He had a burning and unrelenting commitment to making genome data open to all without restriction and his leadership in this regard is in large part responsible for the free access now enjoyed," says Mike Stratton, the director of the Sanger Institute, as it is now known, in a statement.