color photo of several people around a conference room table, raising glasses of champagne

Jack W. Szostak, PhD

The phone rang at 4:45AM on Monday morning, Oct. 5, 2009, with news that MGH investigator Szostak and two former colleagues were winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the most prestigious award in biomedical research. At 5:30 a.m. ET, the news was made public at a Stockholm news conference with the announcement that Szostak, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, PhD, of the University of California at San Francisco, and Carol W. Greider, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, would be honored “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.” When Szostak arrived at the Department of Molecular Biology in the Richard B. Simches Research Center later that morning, he was greeted by a laboratory festooned with streamers and balloons and colleagues raising their glasses in a celebratory toast. Copies of the first scientific paper reporting the groundbreaking discoveries had been taped up on the wall scrawled with the words “Congrats Jack!”