Harry F. Noller's work has led to fundamental changes in our thinking about the role of RNA in the many steps of protein synthesis. He has used the full range of techniques including traditional biochemical as well as high resolution structural analysis to elucidate mechanisms of protein synthesis. His contributions to the sequencing and of genes encoding ribosomal RNAs and to phylogenetic and other analysis of these data led to insights into the secondary structure of these molecules and to functional inferences. Chemical probing and crosslinking experiments provided the key insights to appreciate the possibility that the peptidyl transferase activity of the large subunit of the ribosome may comprise RNA. His subsequent refined structural analysis building on results from biochemical analysis of stripping of proteins from the large ribosomal subunit and assaying for peptidyl transferase activity has provided a significant contribution to the full understanding of RNA catalysis of peptide bond synthesis and other aspects of ribosome structure and function and protein synthesis.
A native of Oakland, California, Harry Noller received PhD in Chemistry from the University of Oregon (1965). Following postdoctoral work at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge and the Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Geneva, he joined the Department of Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz as Assistant Professor (1968), becoming Professor in 1979. He has been Robert L. Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology since 1987 and since 1992, Director, Center for Molecular Biology. He was Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar, Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology (1989-1990).
He is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The RNA Society, The National Academy of Sciences, and The American Association for the Advancement of Science and others. He presented the Harvey Lecture at Rockefeller University (1989), and has received the Rosensteil Award in Basic Biomedical Science (2001), AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize (2002), Speaker of the Year, Netherlands Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2002), RNA Society Lifetime Achievement Award (2003), Massry Prize (2004), and the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (2007). He has authored or co-authored approximately 200 high impact publications and has trained many outstanding students and postdoctoral fellows.