2015 Nobel Prize- Chemistry


Tomas Lindahl

  • Born in 1938 in Stockholm, Sweden
  • Attended Karolinska Medical School- became interested in medical chemistry
  • Worked at: Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory when he received prize
  • Field of study: DNA repair / Cancer research

Interesting Fact

  • First Swede to receive chemistry prize in 67 years

Paul Modrich

  • Born: June 13, 1949 (age 69)
  • Field of study: DNA Mismatch repair
  • Worked at: Duke University and HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute)
  • Bachelor’s Degree: Massachussetts Institute of Technology
  • PhD: Stanford University
  • Awarded Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2015

Interesting Facts

  • Grew up in New Mexico in a small town called Raton.
  • Became interested in molecular genetics while studying genetics of viruses that infect bacteria

Aziz Sancar

  • Born: 1946, Savur, Turkey
  • Education: PhD at University of Texas and MD Istanbul University
  • Worked at: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • Areas of research: biochemistry and biophysics

Interesting Fact

  • Graduated 1st in his class of 625 from Istanbul University in 1969

What did they do?

Tomas Lindahl Contributions

  • Noted that chemical reactions in cells damage the genetic material in cells every day
  • This led to the conclusion that molecular systems exist that help repair the damages
  • Opened a new field of research
  • Identified repair mechanism known as base excision repair (used in the cell cycle)
  • Examined proteins used in the cell's toolbox during DNA repair

Paul Modrich Contributions

  • Studied how cells fix mix matched made by cells during DNA copying
  • Explain how mistakes are passed down through generations for mismatch repair
  • Led to discovery that 99.9% of these mismatches are fixed by using mismatch repair
  • Modrich was able to create simulations to perform his experiments with a protein and E.Coli in DNA repair. Modrich ran his final tests through a gel which displayed similar patterns of dark blue bands if the DNA was successfully repaired.

Aziz Sancar Contributions

  • Discovered that DNA is damaged by outside factors (i.e. smoking and UV light)
  • Discovered a specific enzyme of a certain bacteria, called photolyase, and studied it until he could apply it to human DNA
  • Used In Vitro Experiments and found that this gene helped repair damaged DNA from UV damage with the most accuracy so far by cutting out the damaged nucleotides
  • Derived that there are enzymes similar to photolyase in the human body that help set the circadian rhythm (our biological clock)

Why is this important?

  • Geneticists can now spot flaws in an individual's genetic makeup
  • Geneticists can carefully control the repair mechanisms- future generations are now dramatically more immune to carcinogens and mismatches during birth
  • Did not challenge previous knowledge because it is part of a field that is relatively new
  • Due to its realtively new creation the methods have not yet been fully implemented but are set to be widely available soon