Mary Jane Gething on Recombinant DNA Research
  Mary Jane Gething     Biography    
Recorded: 16 Jan 2003

Well by the time I actually got to Cold Spring Harbor it was getting more established and I think that the first draft of the manual was being written then.

Obviously my whole beginnings in the field, which were not the earliest, I mean they were people long before me. But I was doing these experiments when there were no commercial enzymes, when there were no published techniques and so on. And so Cold Spring Harbor was crucial to that for me. Without that, I suppose almost chance, you know, sort of going to the seminar that Ashley [Dunn] gave—it wouldn’t have been possible to get into that area for years, I imagine, two or three years.

And the importance of Cold Spring Harbor in recombinant DNA research is—can’t be gainsay (??). I mean it was both in terms of being there at the beginnings, you know, it was happening at Harvard, it was happening on the West Coast at the same time. But the decision to run courses on recombinant DNA and growing from that—the manual was crucial to the world in promulgating the techniques and so on.

And the decision to write the manual the way it was written, not just as a set of recipes, but with the underlying philosophy of almost the technology and the explanations of how things, and why you do things, and how to trouble shoot and all of that. I mean there were other cloning manuals around but they died a death because they just didn’t have that breadth of dissemination—of understanding in the field.

Tom [Maniatis], I imagine, came down a lot. But he was not in James when I was there. But certainly drafts were going around all the time. So Joe would, and still does to this day, have readers for all of the stuff and tries to find the people who are the most knowledgeable in a particular area to go over what he’s written to make sure that it’s correct.

And certainly—it’s not possibly any longer—but the early, the first edition of the manual, every single experiment was done in James to check that it worked. It wasn’t just—again the other manuals that were available from other sources, they were—at least it was understanding that they would take somebody’s recipe. But nobody had gone through to actually troubleshoot and make sure it worked under all circumstances.

Mary-Jane Gething, biochemist is Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne where she earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1974. Subsequently she went to Cambridge to do post-doctoral work.

In 1976, she moved to London to work on protein sequencing and in 1980, Gething and Joseph Sambrook received a NATO grant for travel to collaborate on virus research. She began working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1982 where she continued her research of proteins. In 1985, Gething and Sambrook moved to Dallas to work at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. They moved back to Australia in 1994.

Her current research involves protein folding in the cell and the role of molecular chaperone BiP.