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Homeotic genes and bricolage

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Genetic engineering
François Jacob Scientist
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At the beginning of the eighties, genetic engineering brought the tools that allow the characterisation of genes, which until then had been difficult since it had been almost impossible to isolate the gene until the beginning of the eighties. At the time, how did you feel about the arrival of genetic engineering? Bad- because it happened in a slightly complicated context. At the time there were constant arguments. I don't know if you remember. Oh yes! I didn't really like that. Which means that at the beginning, I didn't really get into genetic engineering. I waited for it to calm down a little. Well there were four or five guys that were very good over here. There was one whose name I completely forgot, who was very bright. Alain Rambach. Alain Rambach, yes. What happened to him? I think that he manages a biotechnology company. He was very clever and quite unbearable. There were many like that, unbearable and clever. The time called for it. The time really called for it. There were- what was the other one called- the Canadian that came and went, who was really impressive in his own way. He was very clever and unbearable. I don't remember the Canadian. I remember Pierre Tiollais who wasn't unbearable at all. No Pierre Tiollais wasn't unbearable, not at all. No, no, it was another one whose name I forgot. It doesn't matter. I don't know- who is one of the first to push the techniques on genetic engineering. Yes, that's right. But in the end, it's in the middle of the eighties that, for the mouse, it's really going to produce tools for isolating genes. Yes.
Et le génie génétique va apporter quand même au début des années 80 les outils qui permettent de caractériser les gènes, ce qui avait été difficile jusque-là, puisque pour isoler un gène, c'était presque impossible jusqu'au début des années 1980. Comment vous avez ressenti l'arrivée du génie génétique à l'époque ? Mal- parce que c'est arrivé dans un contexte un peu compliqué. Il y avait des bagarres dans tous les sens à ce moment-là. Je ne sais pas si vous vous souvenez. Oh si ! Bon. Et ça j'aimais pas tellement. Ce qui fait qu'au début, je n'ai pas beaucoup joué au génie génétique. J'ai attendu que ça se dégage un peu. Enfin ici, il y avait quatre-cinq types qui étaient très bon. Il y en a un dont j'ai complètement oublié le nom, qui était très brillant. Alain Rambach. Alain Rambach, oui. Qu'est-ce qu'il est devenu celui-là ? Il dirige une entreprise de biotechnologies je crois. Il était très astucieux et assez insupportable. Il y en a eu beaucoup comme ça, des astucieux insupportables. L'époque s'y prêtait. L'époque s'y prêtait beaucoup. Il y avait- Comment il s'appelait l'autre- Le Canadien là qui arrivait, qui repartait, qui était très étonnant aussi dans son genre. Il était très astucieux et insupportable. Le Canadien je ne me souviens pas. Je me souviens de Pierre Tiollais qui lui n'était pas insupportable. Non, Pierre Tiollais n'était pas insupportable, pas du tout. Non, non c'était un autre dont j'ai complètement oublié le nom. Ça fait rien. Je ne vois pas- Et qui est un des premiers à pousser les techniques du génie génétique. Oui, c'est ça. Mais finalement, pour la souris, c'est dans le milieu des années 80 que ça va vraiment donner des outils pour isoler les gènes. Oui.

François Jacob (1920-2013) was a French biochemist whose work has led to advances in the understanding of the ways in which genes are controlled. In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with Jacque Monod and André Lwoff, for his contribution to the field of biochemistry. His later work included studies on gene control and on embryogenesis. Besides the Nobel Prize, he also received the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 1996 and was elected a member of the French Academy in 1996.

Listeners: Michel Morange

Michel Morange est généticien et professeur à L'Université Paris VI ainsi qu'à l'Ecole Normale Supérieure où il dirige le Centre Cavaillès d'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences. Après l'obtention d'une license en Biochimie ainsi que de deux Doctorats, l'un en Biochimie, l'autre en Histoire et Philosophie des Sciences, il rejoint le laboratoire de Génétique Moléculaire dirigé par le Professeur François Jacob à l'Institut Pasteur. Ses principaux travaux de recherche se sont portés sur l'Histoire de la Biologie au XXème siècle, la naissance et le développement de la Biologie Moléculaire, ses transformations récentes et ses interactions avec les autres disciplines biologiques. Auteur de "La Part des Gènes" ainsi que de "Histoire de la Biologie Moléculaire", il est spécialiste de la structure, de la fonction et de l'ingénerie des protéines.

Michel Morange is a professor of Biology and Director of the Centre Cavaillès of History and Philosophy of Science at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. After having obtained a Bachelor in biochemistry and two PhDs, one in Biochemistry, the other in History and Philosophy of Science, he went on to join the research unit of Molecular Genetics headed by François Jacob, in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Pasteur Institute, Paris. Together with Olivier Bensaude, he discovered that Heat Shock Proteins are specifically expressed on the onset of the mouse zygotic genome activation. Since then he has been working on the properties of Heat Shock Proteins, their role in aggregation and on the regulation of expression of these proteins during mouse embryogenesis. He is the author of 'A History of Molecular Biology' and 'The Misunderstood Gene'.

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008