Tom Maniatis on Mark Ptashne
  Tom Maniatis     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Mar 2003

Mark was very much a left wing radical when he was young. And he had just returned from Vietnam where he had taught a course in Hanoi during the bombing. You know, it was very—he had to go through Russia or somewhere to get there because there is obviously no diplomatic relationship between the United States and North Vietnam.

So he taught a course, and it was sponsored by the Quaker Society. And so they funded a lecture tour. So he went around the country and he would give a scientific talk about his work on the repressor and then give a talk on his experience in Vietnam. And the students took him out to dinner. I met him at dinner. We hit it off and he offered me a position so that’s how I wet to Harvard. And I was there as a postdoc and then we wanted to sequence the DNA of the Lambda operator. And so Mark arranged for us to go to the MRC where I worked with Fred Sanger. And [I] was there almost a year. [I] came back and was offered a faculty position at Harvard.

Tom Maniatis, molecular biologist, is a leader in the field of recombinant DNA. At Vanderbilt University he completed his Ph.D. studying DNA wide-angle scattering. He became a postdoctoral fellow and professor at Harvard University and met Jim Watson just before he became director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

While Maniatis was beginning experimentation with cDNA cloning and gene regulation of higher cells, the controversy over recombinant DNA in Cambridge stunted his progression. Watson offered Maniatis a position at CSHL where he could work more efficiently to understand the methods of recombinant DNA. At CSHL, Maniatis completed full-length synthesis of double stranded DNA and actual cloning of cDNA.

He is currently a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University studying the mechanisms involved in the regulation of RNA transciption and pre-messenger RNA splicing. He studies transcription to understand how eukaryotic genes are activated by viral infection and extracellular signals.