13 January 1927 
Germiston, Gauteng, South Africa
|Thesis||The physical chemistry of cell processes: a study of bacteriophage resistance in Escherichia coli, strain B (1954)|
|Doctoral advisor||Cyril Hinshelwood|
|Spouse||May Brenner (née Covitz) (m. 1952)|
- Education and early life 1
Career and research 2
- American plan and European plan 2.1
- Awards and honours 3
- Personal life 4
- References 5
- Further reading 6
Education and early life
Brenner was born in the town of Germiston, South Africa. His parents, Lena (Blacher) and Morris Brenner, were Jewish immigrants. His father, a cobbler, came to South Africa from Lithuania in 1910, and his mother from Riga, Latvia, in 1922.
He was educated at Germiston High School and the University of the Witwatersrand. Having completed the first three years of primary school in one year, it was noted then that he would be too young to qualify for the practice of medicine at the conclusion of his degree, and he was therefore allowed to complete a BMSc degree in Anatomy and Physiology. He stayed on for two more years doing an Honours degree and then an MSc degree, supporting himself by working part-time as a laboratory technician. During this time he was taught by Joel Mandelstam, Raymond Dart and Robert Broom. His master thesis was in the field of cytogenetics. In 1951 he received the MBBCh degree.
Brenner received an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 which enabled him to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree at the University of Oxford as a postgraduate student of Exeter College, Oxford supervised by Cyril Hinshelwood.
Career and research
Following his PhD, Brenner did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley. He spent the next 20 years at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge; here, during the 1960s, he contributed to molecular biology, then an emerging field. In 1976 he joined the Salk Institute in California.
Together with DNA, constructed by Francis Crick and James Watson; at the time he and the other scientists were working at the University of Oxford's Chemistry Department. All were impressed by the new DNA model, especially Brenner who subsequently worked with Crick in the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
According to the late Beryl Oughton, later Rimmer, they all travelled together in two cars once Dorothy Hodgkin announced to them that they were off to Cambridge to see the model of the structure of DNA.
Brenner made several seminal contributions to the emerging field of transfer RNA (tRNA)". The physical separation between the anticodon and the amino acid on a tRNA is the basis for the unidirectional flow of information in coded biological systems. This is commonly known as the central dogma of molecular biology i.e. that information flows from nucleic acid to protein and never from protein to nucleic acid. Following this adaptor insight, Brenner proposed the concept of a messenger RNA, based on correctly interpreting the work of Elliot "Ken" Volkin and Larry Astrachan. Then, with Francis Crick, Leslie Barnett and Richard J. Watts-Tobin, Brenner genetically demonstrated the triplet nature of the code of protein translation through the Crick, Brenner, Barnett, Watts-Tobin et al. experiment of 1961, which discovered frameshift mutations. This insight provided early elucidation of the nature of the genetic code. Leslie Barnett also helped set up Sydney Brenner's laboratory in Singapore, many years later.
Brenner, with George Pieczenik, created the first computer matrix analysis of nucleic acids using TRAC, which Brenner continues to use. Crick, Brenner, Klug and Pieczenik returned to their early work on deciphering the genetic code with a pioneering paper on the origin of protein synthesis, where constraints on mRNA and tRNA co-evolved allowing for a five-base interaction with a flip of the anticodon loop, and thereby creating a triplet code translating system without requiring a ribosome. This model requires a partially overlapping code. This is the only published paper in scientific history with three independent Nobel laureates collaborating as authors.
Brenner then focused on establishing
Physiology or Medicine:
Brenner was married to May Brenner (née Covitz, subsequently Balkind) from December 1952 until her death in January 2010; their children include Belinda, Carla, Stefan, and his stepson Jonathan Balkind from his wife's first marriage. He lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire.
- Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge since 1959
- Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) of London in 1965
- William Bate Hardy Prize in 1969
- Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in 1971
- Royal Medal from the Royal Society in 1974
- Gairdner Foundation International Award in 1978 and again in 1991
- Krebs Medal in 1980
- Rosenstiel Award in 1986
- Harvey Prize in 1987
- Genetics Society of America Medal in 1987
- Kyoto Prize in 1990
- Copley Medal in 1991
- King Faisal International Prize in Medicine in 1992
- Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002
- Dan David Prize in 2002 directed by Professor Gad Barzilai
- March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology in 2002
- In recognition of his pioneering role in starting what is now a global research community that work on C. elegans, another closely related nematode was given the scientific name Caenorhabditis brenneri.
- The National Science and Technology Medal by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research awarded Brenner in 2006
- In 2008, the University of the Witwatersrand, named Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience (SBIMB) in his honour
Brenner has received numerous awards and honours including:
Awards and honours
According to the American plan, a brain cell's function is determined by the function of its neighbors after cell migration. If a cell migrates to an area in the visual cortex, the cell will adopt the function of its neighboring visual cortex cells, guided by chemical and axonal signals from these cells. If the same cell migrates to the auditory cortex, it would develop functions related to hearing, regardless of its genetic lineage.
The "American plan" and "European Plan" were proposed by Sydney Brenner as competing models for the way brain cells determine their neural functions. According to the European plan (sometimes referred to as the British plan), the function of cells is determined by its genetic lineage. Therefore, a mother cell with a specific function (for instance, interpreting visual information) would create daughter cells with similar functions.
American plan and European plan
Known for his penetrating scientific insight and acerbic wit, Brenner, for many years, authored a regular column ("Loose Ends") in the journal Current Biology. This column was so popular that "Loose ends from Current Biology", a compilation, was published by Current Biology Ltd. and is now a collectors' item. Brenner wrote "A Life In Science", a paperback published by BioMed Central. Brenner is also noted for his generosity with ideas and the great number of students and colleagues his ideas have stimulated.
Brenner founded the Molecular Sciences Institute in Berkeley, California in 1996. As of 2015 he is associated with the Salk Institute, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, the Singapore Biomedical Research Council, the Janelia Farm Research Campus, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In August 2005, Brenner was appointed president of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. He is also on the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute, as well as being Professor of Genetics there. A scientific biography of Brenner was written by Errol Friedberg in the US, for publication by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press in 2010.