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Receiving the Nobel Prize
Renato Dulbecco Scientist
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Well, this changed my life enormously, because suddenly there was an influx of colleagues who wanted, in a certain way, to benefit from this news in the directions that interested them and particularly this group of epidemiologists in London, Peto and another who was called... so these... because they had discovered, from an epidemiological viewpoint, that smoke produces lung cancer, therefore a very clear connection between these two things, and in fact they wanted me to represent them to promote this idea, you see, which, after all, I decided to go along with. So, we got ourselves organised, I had to write a presentation in which I highlighted all this, in short everything went well. Then, on 10 December, we went to Stockholm and there we were met by the other two who received the Nobel Prize, who were David Baltimore and Temin, Baltimore and Temin. And these two were my colleagues, my partners, Temin was my student. Baltimore was with me, I brought him to the laboratory and we worked alongside each other, I don't mean together, but for some time, therefore we were part of the same basic group, which was great. So, naturally, I received the Nobel Prize for this work on the relation of genes, the virus and the genes of the cell  this was the formulation and they took it, because both contributed to the discovery of the inverse transcription, as it is called, therefore it showed that, although normally the information is in the DNA and is transferred from the DNA to the RNA, there are conditions in which the opposite happens, that is that the information in the RNA is transferred to the DNA. And this explains why Rubin and Temin's work on these viruses that contain RNA, instead of DNA, but which produced cancer, was fundamentally similar to what I was studying with genes because the virus enters the cell, the RNA is combined, combines with forms of DNA and then this DNA is what makes all the rest, you see, so there is no difference between the two... it is a purely temporary difference and this, therefore, went very well. Naturally, this question of smoke, Temin was very strongly against this, so when there was the press conference in which we participated, he entered into the room where there was a long oval table, and on this table, there were three ashtrays. As soon as Temin saw this, he said, 'Take these ashtrays away immediately, I won't come in if they are there', so they had to take them away. And then, in the discussions that ensued, he always stressed this point very vehemently.

Beh, insomma, quello appunto ha cambiato la mia vita enormemente, perché subito c'è stato l'influsso di colleghi che volevano, in un certo qual modo, sfruttare questa notizia nelle direzioni che loro interessavano e specialmente soprattutto questo gruppo di epidemiologisti di Londra, Peto e un altro che si chiama... insomma questi... perché loro avevano scoperto, dal punto di vista epidemiologico, che il fumo produce il cancro del polmone, perciò la connessione molto evidente tra queste due cose, e insomma volevano che io, prendessi la difesa... facessi propaganda per questa idea, capisci, che in fondo aveva tutte le ragioni di farlo. E così ci siamo organizzati, io dovevo scrivere una presentazione in cui io ho fatto evidenza di questo, insomma tutto è andato normalmente. Poi, il 10 dicembre, siamo andati a Stoccolma e lì siamo stati raggiunti dagli altri due che hanno preso il Premio Nobel, che erano David Baltimore e Temin, Baltimore e Temin. E questi due erano miei colleghi, miei partner, Temin, senza dubbio, era mio studente. Baltimore è stato con me, l'ho fatto venire nel laboratorio e abbiamo lavorato in modo parallelo, non dico insieme, per qualche tempo, insomma, perciò eravamo parte dello stesso gruppo fondamentalmente, che è stata una bella cosa. Però, naturalmente, io prendevo il Premio Nobel per quel lavoro sopra la relazione dei geni, del virus e dei geni della cellula, insomma, questa era la formulazione – e loro lo prendevano, perché tutti e due avevano contribuito alla scoperta della trascrizione inversa quello si chiama, cioè ha dimostrato che, sebbene normalmente l'informazione è nel DNA e dal DNA viene trasferita all'RNA, ci sono condizioni in cui avviene l'opposto, cioè l'informazione è nell'RNA e viene trasferita al DNA. E questo spiegava perché il lavoro di Rubin e Temin su quei virus che contengono RNA, invece di DNA, ma che producevano il cancro, fondamentalmente era simile a quello che io studiavo coi geni, perché il virus entra nella cellula, l'RNA si fa accoppiare, accoppia forme di DNA e poi questo DNA è quello che fa tutto il resto, capisci, per cui non c'è differenza tra i due, insomma è una differenza puramente temporanea questa... e questo, perciò, è andato molto bene. Naturalmente, questa questione del fumo, Temin era molto, molto forte contro di questo, per cui quando c'è stata la conferenza stampa a cui abbiamo partecipato, si entrava in una sala, dove c'era un lungo tavolo ovale, e su questo tavolo c'erano tre portacenere. Allora, Temin appena ha visto questo, ha detto, 'Levateli subito questi portacenere, io non entro se ci sono quelli', perciò hanno dovuto portarli via. E poi, nei... piccoli discorsi che dovevamo fare, lui ha sempre accentuato questo punto in maniera molto forte.

The Italian biologist Renato Dulbecco (1914-2012) had early success isolating a mutant of the polio virus which was used to create a life-saving vaccine. Later in his career, he initiated the Human Genome Project and was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1975 for furthering our understanding of cancer caused by viruses.

Listeners: Paola De Paoli Marchetti

Paola De Paoli Marchetti is a science journalist who graduated with an honours degree in foreign languages and literature from the University Ca’Foscari, Venice. She has been a science journalist since the 1960s and has been on the staff of the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore since 1970. She was elected president of UGIS (Italian Association of Science Journalists) in 1984. She has been a Member of the Board of EUSJA (European Union of Science Journalists’ Associations, Strasbourg), and was its president in 1987-1988 and 1998-2000. In May 2000 she was unanimously elected president emeritus. She was a member of the National Council of Italian Journalists (1992-1998). From 2002 to 2004 she was member of the working group for scientific communication of the National Committee for Biotechnology. She has also been a consultant at the Italian Ministry of Research and Technology and editor-in-chief of the publication MRST, policy of science and technology. She has co-authored many publications in the field of scientific information, including Le biotecnologie in Italia, Le piste della ricerca and Luna vent’anni dopo.

Tags: Nobel Prize, David Baltimore, Howard Martin Temin

Duration: 3 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008