The world could have a cure for cancer in five years time, if there was a stronger incentive to find it, according to the scientist who discovered the structure of DNA.

Speaking at an international science conference in Dublin, Prof James Watson said he believed a cure lay in the development of new drugs.

The famously outspoken and controversial Nobel Laureate said we were now at the point where we knew what the problem was.

He said if we could short-circuit processes, and test drugs on people who had terminal cancer, a cure could be found quickly.

Prof Watson said curing cancer was the most important challenge he could think of and he said he had always wanted to do it.

He said the world needed a stronger incentive and he criticised what he called the cancer industry which he suggested was all about money.

Asked what advice he had for Ireland in terms of scientific development the scientist, who is now in his 80s, said it was important to think big.

He said Ireland should do everything possible so that exceptional people would want to be here.

He also cautioned against losing the brightest 1% of students.

Prof Watson said he hoped to attend a lecture this evening by rival biologist Craig Venter.

Asked about his relationship with Dr Venter, Prof Watson said when both men were racing for the human genome he was his enemy.

He said now he was certainly not his friend.

Professor Watson said he did not think Dr Venter was going to change the world, but, he added, few people do.

Craig Venter was one of the first to sequence the Human Genome.

Prof Watson won the Nobel Prize in 1962.