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Michael Smith Biography

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Smith, Michael (1932- ), British-born Canadian biochemist and Nobel Prize winner. Smith developed a method for altering the nucleic acid deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) structure of protein molecules. His technique enabled scientists to determine with great accuracy the function of proteins in specific organisms. This innovation also expanded the possibilities of protein engineering. For this work, Smith was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry. He shared the prize with American biochemist Kary B. Mullis, who was honored for developing the technique of polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Born in Blackpool, England, Smith received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Manchester in 1956. After serving as a research fellow at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Smith worked for the Fisheries Research Board of Canada from 1961 to 1966. He then returned to the University of British Columbia, where he became a professor of biochemistry in 1970 and where he still works in the biotechnology lab.
Proteins perform a variety of crucial chemical functions in plants and animals. The best way to study the function of a specific protein is to mutate it, then observe how this changes the behavior of the entire organism. Prior to Smith's innovation, mutation was achieved by exposing random cells to mutagens (radiation or chemicals). This approach was unreliable because both radiation and chemicals mutated proteins randomly, making ...

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