MICHAEL SMITH WINS NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY
Born in Blackpool, England, Michael Smith came to Canada in 1956 after earning his PhD in chemistry. Looking for a way into the research community, his path led to Har Gorbind Khorana, then a leading biochemist at the University of British Columbia. At the time, scientists were just beginning to perceive how living cells access the genetic information that is encoded in their DNA in order to build proteins. Khorana, who moved to the University of Wisconsin in 1960, would later win a Nobel Prize for his role in understanding the process. Smith initially followed Khorana to the United States, but soon returned to Van- couver to work for the federal government. While publishing papers on fish science at the Fisheries Research Board, he continued to pursue his interest in genetics. By the 1970s, Smith was at UBC working out how to swap nucleotides – the tiny molecules that serve as the individual letters in the genetic code. His Nobel-winning method, known as sitespecific mutagenesis, allowed scientists to study protein function and the mechanisms behind cancer and other gene-related diseases. It also set the stage for a new generation of gene-editing tools that are now transforming the life sciences.