Farewell to the Father of DNA Sequencing

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One of the few scientists to win two Nobel prizes, Frederick Sanger, has died this week at the ripe old age of 95. He is most famous for his work in creating a way of sequencing and decoding DNA, which has transformed biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology forever, and earned his his second Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1980.

Frederick received a BA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge in 1939, going on to study a PhD there in the Biochemistry department, working on lysine metabolism. Continuing to work in the biochemistry and medicinal chemistry field, he became interested in determining the structures of components of living matter, and won the 1958 Nobel prize in Chemistry for determining the molecular structure of insulin.

From here, his career took off, and Frederick found that he had access to more funding, better laboratory facilities and collaborations with other excellent scientists.

In the 1960s, he became interested in DNA,and was shocked to find very few researchers were interested in the field. In 1977, he and his team announced the creation of what is now known as the Sanger method of sequencing DNA, and this area of biochemistry was changed for the better forever. Suddenly, scientists were able to quickly determine the sequences of human DNA, and soon after the method was automated, and used to sequence the human genome.

A remarkably hard-working and devoted scientist, Frederick Sanger remained modest of his achievements throughout his life, despite the enormous impact his work has had on a huge segment of scientific research. His work has paved the way for the more modern methods of DNA sequencing used today, and has allowed for a remarkable level of understanding in nucleic acid chemistry which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

He has been and continues to be an inspiration for biologists, biochemists and medicinal scientists around the world, and his legacy will continue to live on in the continued exploration of the building blocks that make up all living things.

 

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