Michael Smith (Biochemist)

Michael Smith, biochemist, professor (b at Blackpool, Eng 26 April 1932; died 4 October 2000, Vancouver). After obtaining a PhD from U of Manchester, Smith came to Canada in 1956.

Michael Smith, biochemist, professor (b at Blackpool, Eng 26 April 1932; died 4 October 2000, Vancouver). After obtaining a PhD from U of Manchester, Smith came to Canada in 1956. He came to further his training in chemistry under the mentorship of H.G. Khorana in Vancouver, where the latter was developing the chemistry for the synthesis of nucleic acids. Smith continued his work with Khorana after both moved to the U of Wisconsin until 1961, when he returned to the UBC campus at the Fisheries Research Board Laboratories.

In 1966 he joined the Dept of Biochemistry at UBC, where he continued to work as professor of biochemistry and director of the Biotechnology Lab. He was the founding program leader for the Protein Engineering Network of centres of excellence. With his students and post-doctoral fellows, Smith has made important contributions to many areas of research, ranging from hormonal control of development of salmon, to the enzymatic synthesis of polynucleotides, to the engineering of specific structural alterations in proteins.

He is best known for the development of systems for editing genetic DNA sequences using site-directed mutagenesis methods developed in the laboratory. For this work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1993, an award he shared with an American, Kary Mullis. Smith has used the prize to advance the cause of scientific research in Canada, and he has dedicated the prize money to specific projects such as the advancement of women in scientific careers and to research in schizophrenia.


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