Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Record Amount

James Watson's Nobel Prize has raked in a record $4.1 million at auction, the New York Times reports.

Watson received the prize in 1962 for his contribution to the unraveling of the structure of DNA alongside Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. The Christie's auction house had predicted a sale price of $3.5 million. Crick's Nobel sold posthumously to Jack Wang, the chief executive of a Chinese biotech, last year for $2.27 million, the Times notes.

The identity of the purchaser of Watson's Nobel has not been revealed.

Watson said earlier this week that he was seeking to sell his Nobel both out of financial necessity and to raise money for charity — and to possibly purchase a painting. He told the Financial Times that, ever since he made racist remarks in 2007 that cost him the chancellor position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, he's been an "unperson." Watson apologized at the time for making those remarks, and remains chancellor emeritus at the lab.

"The sale is to support and empower scientific discovery," Watson said.

The New York Times characterizes Watson's move to sell the prize to raise money for charity as a "quest for redemption." Slate, however, views it as Watson "sticking his tongue out at the scientific establishment."

On Wednesday, Watson said part of the proceeds from the sale would go to institutions that had supported him throughout his career, such as the University of Chicago, Indiana University, the University of Cambridge, and Cold Spring Harbor Lab. He added that he thought the painting could be a gift to the lab. He told the Times on Thursday he'd also considered building a gym for the lab, but that that would only have been possible if the medal sold for $10 million.

Christie's also auctioned Watson's Nobel acceptance speech notes and the manuscript for the lecture he gave the day after receiving the medal for $365,000 and $245,000, respectively, to a separate anonymous buyer.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.