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New Zealand scientist "on a par with Galileo"
An interesting article on Allan Wilson (with the words used in this subject line) in the latest issue of NZ Listener - promoting the upcoming lecture tour by the PhD student who, with Wilson, published on "mitochondrial Eve" - our common female ancestor from Africa.
Allan Wilson was the first researcher outside of Cetus (the company where PCR was developed) to use PCR. Yep, back in the time when it was 3 water baths and repeated enzyme addition. Or as they wrote in 1987:
. . .in a total volume of 100µl. The mixture was heated for 10 min at 950 C to separate the strands, spun for 10 sec in an Eppendorf model 5414 microcentrifuge to bring down condensate and cool the sample, and then cooled for an additional 2 min at room temperature. Two µl of DNA polymerase I Klenow fragment (0.5 units/µl) were added and the reaction was allowed to proceed for 2 min at room temperature. The reaction mixtures were then heated again for 2 min at 95°C and the cycle just described was repeated a total of 20 times."
Nucl. Acids. Res 15:2 529-542
Sheesh. We've got it easy now eh?
However it seems appropriate that Wilson was the first to use PCR outside the Cetus laboratories. Many of his PhD students had previously gone from his Berkeley lab to Cetus where they were heavily involved in directing the development of early PCR. One of these students - Tom White - bought a chemist friend on board Cetus to help synthesis oligonucleotides (no PCR, no "primers"!?). That chemist with the molecular biology PhD was of course Kary Mullis who would go on to conceive of PCR.
Other students of Allan Wilson include Svante Paabo (pioneer of ancient DNA analysis and now director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology - the institute where the Neanderthal genome was recently sequenced). Russell Higuchi - on the early PCR papers using Taq polymerase - would later develop real-time qPCR while at Cetus and later at Roche Molecular Systems. The original qPCR though? That was also Russ Higuchi - but in his earlier work on cloning the first sequences from an extinct animal: the quagga.
So in the large whirling atmosphere of PCR and qPCR - Allan Wilson appears at the heart of it all. I hope to get along to one of Rebecca Cann's lectures in NZ that describes his legacy - check out here for dates.
And the final link with Allan Wilson and PCR? Mullis was only able to study for a PhD thanks to the influence of his advisory committee (oh, and a Nature paper as a grad student). And on that advisory committee of 3. . . Allan Wilson.