“Architecture and secondary structure of an entire HIV-1 RNA genome” is, like a great movie, everything you were promised and more.
We’re not just talking about a map of the gene that causes HIV. We’re talking of a complete structural diagram of the RNA through which it reproduces.
As Weeks himself noted in a press release, “”There is so much structure in the HIV RNA genome that it almost certainly plays a previously unappreciated role in the expression of the genetic code.”
It’s in knowing the angles at which atoms intersect within a molecule that you can find the key which unlocks and destroys the gene.
As is often true in science, Weeks has already discussed all this publicly, having held a seminar at Hunter College in New York about his findings in May. But as is also true in science, it’s not real until it’s published in a fully peer-reviewed journal.
Weeks has a more complete description of the work at his Web site. “we want to make it possible to understand, in detail, the global structure and long-range architecture of all cellular RNAs,” he writes, and thus understand fundamental assembly principles for RNA.
This, then, is not even a great AIDS story. It is basic chemical-genetic research of the highest order, a path toward unlocking the secrets of all deadly viruses.
One other important point I found on Weeks’ background. He did not come to this from some big-time school like Harvard or Stanford. He is a 1986 graduate from the College of Wooster, in Ohio, where he was discovered by the Fulbright Scholar program and sent to Germany.
Genius can start anywhere. If you’re launching your collegiate career at a lesser-known college this fall, remember that and aim high.