Monday, October 29, 2007
Arthur Kornberg (1918-2007)
Without Arthur Kornberg's achievements, biotechnology would be a nice idea on paper, never realized. Intensely interested in enzymes, Kornberg discovered two families of DNA enzymes crucial for manipulating DNA: DNA polymerases and DNA ligases. Today, we buy these enzymes from catalogs that are as slick as any product catalog you receive just in time for the Christmas season. Kornberg, however, had to purify and identify these proteins from the cells that made them.
He won a Nobel Prize for this work in 1959 for DNA synthesis, sharing the prize with Ochoa, who won for RNA synthesis.
A lot of people who know about Kornberg's molecular biological achievements, might not know that he is also responsible for the research that showed that both folic acid and Vitamin K were essential nutrients.
His son, Roger, also a biochemist, won a Nobel Prize in 2006, making the Kornbergs only the second family to win multiple Nobels, the first being the Curies.
He was publishing up the end -- I checked PubMed and there is a paper in PNAS dated October 16, 2007, in which he is listed as the primary investigator (or PI):
Zhang H, Gómez-García MR, Shi X, Rao NN, Kornberg A. Polyphosphate kinase 1, a conserved bacterial enzyme, in a eukaryote, Dictyostelium discoideum, with a role in cytokinesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 16;104(42):16486-91