Born in South Africa in 1927, Dr. Brenner completed an honors degree and an MSc in Anatomy and Physiology from the University of Witwatersrand before undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) at Oxford University. He later joined the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he became the director of the Medical Research Council in 1979.
Dr. Brenner led a distinguished research career in the field of genetics and molecular biology. In the early 1960s, he co-discovered the existence of messenger RNA and demonstrated that the nucleotide sequence of mRNA determines the order of amino acids in proteins. For this discovery he was awarded the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research in 1971. He not only established the roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans) as a model organism for research in the fields of genetics, neurobiology and developmental biology, but his pioneering research on it won him the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology along with his colleagues Drs. H. Robert Horvitz and John Sulston in 2002.
Beyond research, Dr. Brenner played an instrumental role in establishing several leading international research institutions all over the world, including the Molecular Sciences Institute in California, founded in 1996, and OIST. Dr. Brenner founded and served as the President of the OIST Promotion Corporation between 2005 and 2011, setting a strong foundation on which the University has established itself as an emerging leader in graduate education and research internationally. For his commitment and efforts towards establishing OIST, Dr. Brenner was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government in 2017. Prior to his retirement from OIST, Dr. Brenner made a generous donation of 5,000,000 yen to establish a scholarship fund to support tuition and research expenses of OIST graduate students.
Dr. Brenner was associated with many research institutes, including the Salk Institute, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, and The Scripps Research Institute.