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Thomas Steitz Dies

Thomas Steitz, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009, has died, the Washington Post reports. He was 78.

Steitz, who was a professor at Yale University, shared the Nobel with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan from MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Ada Yonath of Weizmann Institute of Science for their work into the structure and function of the ribosome. The three independently used X-ray crystallography to examine its structures and build three-dimensional models of how it turns nucleic acids into proteins.

"I think we were amazed at each stage at the overwhelming complexity of the RNA folding in the ribosome," Steitz once told Yale News. "But I think the most surprising observation was that the proteins were embedded among the RNA helices, penetrating into the interior of the ribosome like tentacles."

He and his Yale colleagues Peter Moore and William Jorgensen founded Rib-X Pharmaceutical, now known as Melinta Therapeutics, to apply this knowledge of the ribosome to develop new antibiotics, Yale News adds.