Remembering Marshall Nirenberg
The article appearing in the Aug. 7/14 issue (page 38) titled “Solving the Structure of DNA” is both timely and of great interest. Although major scientific developments that were made possible by the Watson and Crick structure of DNA are described, there is one critical omission that should be addressed. I refer to the monumental work performed in the 1960s on deciphering the universal genetic code by Marshall Nirenberg. His initial discovery was made in 1961, and by 1966, work on the code was complete. Nirenberg received the Nobel Prize in 1968. Without knowledge of the genetic code, for example, the Human Genome Project could not have been possible.
In 2002, around the time when the first results of the genome project were revealed, Samuel Wilson (now deceased), Dolph Hatfield, and I (all of us former postdoctoral fellows in the Nirenberg lab) organized a major event at the US National Institutes of Health in honor of Nirenberg. It was titled “The Genetic Code Revisited: The Impact of Functional Genomics in Medical Research.” The leaders of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, Eric Lander, and Craig Venter, were among the speakers featured at this symposium.
Nirenberg, though very modest, was one of the giants, and his passing in 2010 was a tremendous loss for us all.
Judith G. Levin
Teaneck, New Jersey
Shell waste as a chitin source
The shortarticle in a recent C&EN concerning chitin from certain adult flies is both interesting and timely (Aug. 21, 2023, page 6). It must be noted that some 6 million–8 million metric tons of crustacean shell waste is generated globally every year. This chitin-rich resource could easily supplement and support the fly shell research reported at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco. Specifically, please see www.nature.com/articles/524155a for more information on crustacean shell waste as an untapped, valuable feedstock for chemical processing.