American Philosophical Society
Member History

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201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry[X]
41Name:  Dr. Mary Ellen Jones
 Institution:  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
 Year Elected:  1994
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1922
 Death Date:  8/23/96
   
42Name:  Dr. Ephraim Katchalski-Katzir
 Institution:  Weizmann Institute of Science
 Year Elected:  1976
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  International
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1916
 Death Date:  May 30, 2009
   
 
Professor Ephraim Katzir - eminent scientist and the fourth President of the State of Israel - was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1916 as Ephraim Katchalski (he Hebracized his name upon becoming President). His family immigrated to British-ruled Palestine when he was six years old. He grew up in Jerusalem and began studying biology at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, where he did both his undergraduate and graduate work, receiving his Ph.D. in 1941. Like other students at the time, Ephraim Katzir was a member of the Haganah, the underground Jewish defense organization, and played a role in the creation of a military research and development unit developing explosives, propellants and more. During the War of Independence, he was appointed head of the IDF science corps. Professor Katzir was one of the founding scientists of the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1949, an institution with which he has been associated throughout his professional career, both before and after serving as President. As founder and head of the Institute's Biophysics Department, Katzir was involved in seminal work on synthetic protein models that contributed significantly to the understanding of biology, chemistry and physics, and deepened understanding of the genetic code and of immune responses. His pioneering work on immobilized enzymes used in oral antibiotics, for which he received the Japan Prize in 1985, has revolutionized a number of industries and branches of medical research. Three landmark events "defined" Katzir's presidency. His term in office began on May 24, 1973, just over four months prior to the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War and exactly a year after the death of his brother, Professor Aharon Katzir, who was murdered in the May 1972 terrorist attack at Ben-Gurion Airport. A third momentous event - the visit of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in Jerusalem in November 1977 - took place near the end of his term as President. During his presidency, Katzir placed special emphasis on education and science as a fulcrum to economic prosperity. As a former chief scientist of the IDF (1966-68), he made numerous tours of army units and military research facilities, as well as of industrial complexes and educational facilities, including those in development towns. Using his personal standing and the prestige of his office, he galvanized academics to address the danger of assimilation in Diaspora communities by pressing for the establishment of departments of Jewish studies at colleges and universities abroad - deemed the "last chance" to expose Jewish youth in the Diaspora to their heritage and Jewish identity. In 1966 he accepted the invitation of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to head a committee charged with advising the government on its future activities in science and technology. The result was the appointment, in several government ministries, of Chief Scientists charged with promoting applied research in governmental institutions, institutes of higher education and industry, leading to greater cooperation between the three sectors. It also led to a dramatic increase in government spending on applied research, causing a surge in innovative science-based activities, especially in industry and agriculture. Throughout his five years in office, President Katzir emphasized science and higher education, but also reached out to numerous individual families in distress and devoted much time to promoting volunteerism as an avenue for narrowing educational and socio-economic gaps. During his term of office, the Presidential Award for Volunteerism was inaugurated - an annual prize granted in recognition of twelve individuals who distinguished themselves in volunteer work. Ephraim Katzir stepped down from the Presidency in May 1978 to return to scientific research. Since returning to the Weizmann Institute, Professor Katzir has given priority to the encouragement of biotechnological research in Israel and played a part in the foundation of a Department of Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University. Convinced that Israel needs to develop a highly-skilled workforce for its high-tech sector, Ephraim Katzir also serves as World President of ORT - a network of vocational schools.
 
43Name:  Dr. Thomas J. Kelly
 Institution:  Sloan-Kettering Institute; Cornell University
 Year Elected:  1998
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1941
   
 
Thomas Kelly has been a world leader in unraveling how complex DNA viruses are replicated, thereby providing important understanding into control of the growth of animal cells. As a fellow in Hamilton Smith's laboratory, he identified the first recognition sequence of a restriction enzyme: a major and critical milestone in recombinant DNA technology. Dr. Kelly was the first to devise cell-free systems that faithfully replicated eukaryotic DNA and successfully copied the complete adenovirus genome in vitro. This led to an important technique: DNA recognition-site affinity chromatography which is widely used for the isolation of proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences. In a major advance he developed a system (and identified many of the catalytic components) for the replication of the oncogenic simian virus SV 40. Analysis of this system has revealed how DNA replication is initiated, including a tightly regulated phosphorylation which controls DNA unwinding. Dr. Kelly is deeply respected for his scientific originality and his incisive contributions to DNA replication. He currently directs the Sloan-Kettering Institute and previously built a world-class department of molecular biology and genetics during his tenure at Johns Hopkins University. He has fostered the careers of numerous young scientists and been an important spokesperson for science.
 
44Name:  Dr. Eugene Patrick Kennedy
 Institution:  Harvard University
 Year Elected:  1993
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1919
 Death Date:  September 22, 2011
   
 
Eugene Patrick Kennedy was born in Chicago in 1919. He enrolled at De Paul University in 1937 as a chemistry major and then went to the University of Chicago in 1941 for graduate training in organic chemistry. To pay his tuition, Dr. Kennedy also got a job in the chemical research department of Armour and Company, one of the large meat packers in Chicago. As part of the war effort, his job at Armour was to assist in the large scale fractionation of bovine blood to obtain pure bovine serum albumin. It was believed that the bovine serum albumin might be useful for treating shock in soldiers on the battlefield. However, by the end of 1942, hope had faded that bovine serum albumin would be an effective treatment, and the Red Cross started to collect blood from volunteers instead. Armour opened a new facility in Fort Worth, Texas for the fractionation of human blood from donors, and Kennedy was sent to Fort Worth to assist in this effort. He remained in Texas until 1945, when the war was nearing its end and large amounts of human plasma proteins had been stockpiled. Returning to the University of Chicago, Dr. Kennedy immediately transferred from the Department of Chemistry to the Department of Biochemistry. His experience on the plasma project had led to a new appreciation of biochemistry. After finishing graduate school, Dr. Kennedy went to the University of California, Berkeley, to work with Horace A. Barker, who had just discovered that soluble extracts of Clostridium kluyveri cells could produce short-chain fatty acids from ethyl alcohol. Although the initial discovery had already been made, there was much to be learned about these extracts, and Dr. Kennedy aided in this effort. In 1950, he joined Fritz Lipmann at Harvard Medical School. He then returned to the University of Chicago in 1951, after being given a joint appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and the newly organized Ben May Laboratory for Cancer Research. In 1959, he was invited to become a Hamilton Kuhn Professor and head of the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Harvard Medical School. Over the course of his career, Dr. Kennedy made major contributions to the biosynthesis of phospholipids, the basic component of all membranes, and to our understanding of membrane function. He discovered the first step of phospholipid synthesis, the reaction of cytidine triphosphate and phosphorylcholine to form cytidine diphosphocholine, as well as the enzyme which catalyzes the reaction. It was Dr. Kennedy who found that a protein, permease, was responsible for the transport of sugars through the bacterial membrane. His research consistently elucidated the structure, localization and biosynthesis of oligosaccharides derived from membranes. Dr. Kennedy's interests also led him to investigate membrane biogenesis and function in bacteria, the translocation of membrane phospholipids, and periplasmic glucans and cell signaling in bacteria. He was the recipient of many honors including the Gairdner Foundation Award and the American Chemical Society's Paul Lewis Award. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. Eugene Patrick Kennedy died on September 22, 2011, at the age of 92 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Kennedy was at Harvard as the Hamilton Kuhn Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Emeritus.
 
45Name:  Dr. H. G. Khorana
 Institution:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
 Year Elected:  1973
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1922
 Death Date:  November 9, 2011
   
 
Har Gobind Khorana was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize in Medicine, along with Robert W. Holley and Marshall W. Nirenberg, for describing the genetic code and how it operates in protein synthesis. The team discovered that RNAs with three repeating units produced two alternating amino acids, while RNAs with four repeating units produced only dipeptides and tripeptides. This led them to identify stop codons, and in turn to establish that the biological language common to all living organisms is spelled out in sets of three nucleotides for a specific amino acid. Born in India, Dr. Khorana earned his Ph.D. at Liverpool in 1948. He was the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with which he had been associated since 1969. Previously he served as head of the British Columbia Research Council's Organic Chemical Group (1952-60), as visiting professor at Rockefeller University (1958-60), and as professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin (1960-68). The author of many research publications in scientific journals, Dr. Khorana has been honored with the Lasker Award (1968), the Horowitz Prize (1968), the National Medal of Science (1987), and membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1973. Dr. Khorana died November 9, 2011, at the age of 89 in Concord, Massachusetts.
 
46Name:  Dr. Judith P. Klinman
 Institution:  University of California, Berkeley
 Year Elected:  2001
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1941
   
 
Judith Klinman has made significant contributions to our understanding of enzyme function, including two fundamental discoveries, rare events in the field of enzymology: a new redox cofactor in eukaryotes and the unanticipated demonstration of hydrogen tunneling in enzymatic reactions. The latter provides an experimental link to the role of protein motions in catalysis. In addition, she has been a leader in utilizing isotope effects to probe enzymatic reaction mechanisms and has also begun to unravel the mechanism of copper dependent biological redox reactions. Her approach amply demonstrates the rewards of applying the principles and tools of physical organic chemistry to biological sciences. Dr. Klinman has worked at the Institute of Cancer Research (1972-78) and the University of Pennsylvania (1974-78); since 1982 she has been professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also chaired the department of chemistry (2000-03) and serves as professor of molecular and cell biology. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; the National Academy of Sciences; the American Chemical Society; the Protein Society; the Biophysics Society; and the American Society of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (president, 1998). In 2014 she was awarded the National Medal of Science.
 
47Name:  Dr. Arthur Kornberg
 Institution:  Stanford University
 Year Elected:  1960
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1918
 Death Date:  October 26, 2007
   
48Name:  Dr. Daniel E. Koshland
 Institution:  University of California, Berkeley
 Year Elected:  1988
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1920
 Death Date:  July 23, 2007
   
49Name:  Dr. Henry A. Lardy
 Institution:  University of Wisconsin, Madison
 Year Elected:  1976
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1917
 Death Date:  August 4, 2010
   
 
Henry A. Lardy was the Vilas Professor of Biological Sciences Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was introduced to biochemical research as an undergraduate at South Dakota State University in 1937. The Experiment Station Chemistry Laboratory employed two or three chemistry majors during their junior and senior years, and he was fortunate to be selected. In his senior thesis research he reported a treatment for selenium poisoning in animals that was successful in treating a human case. In May of 1939 he became a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin and there discovered a medium that permitted sperm storage for 7 - 10 days with retention of motility and fertilizing capacity and made artificial insemination practical. While studying the metabolism of sperm he discovered the uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation by dinitrophenol. After a year of postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Professor Herman Fischer at the University of Toronto, he returned to the University of Wisconsin as an assistant professor. His research with graduate students involved carbohydrate chemistry and metabolism which led to our proving that the "nonphosphorylating glycolsis" of the Needham school was non-existent. He also discovered that the metabolic function of the vitamin Biotin is to fix carbon dioxide into organic structures. In 1950 the university opened an "Institute for Enzyme Research," and Dr. Lardy was one of two professors designated to conduct research and train students and postdoctoral fellows in the facility. From then until 1988, he supervised the worked of 60 graduate students and more postdoctorate fellows. Their research was summarized in Comprehensive Biochemistry, Vol. 36 (1986) and in a "Reflections" chapter in the Journal of Biological Chemistry 278:3499 (2003). After becoming Emeritus Professor, Lardy's research has dealt with steroids that cause weight loss in obese persons and animals, improve memory and decrease cholesterol. Lardy had continued to be an active member of the university's bioscience community until just months before his death on August 4, 2010 at the age of 92.
 
50Name:  Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini
 Institution:  European Brain Research Institute
 Year Elected:  1986
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1909
 Death Date:  December 30, 2012
   
 
Neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Turin, Italy and was a dual citizen of Italy and the United States. In 1986 she received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of the nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein molecule that enhances differentiative processes of the sensory and sympathetic neurons and may exert a modulatory role on neuro-immunoendocrine functions of vital importance in the regulation of homeostatic processes. Much of Dr. Levi-Montalcini's most important work was conducted over her three decades at Washington University in St. Louis. She also directed the Research Center of Neurobiology of the CNR (Rome) from 1961-69 and the Laboratory of Cellular Biology from 1969-78. Her many awards and honors include the National Medal of Science (1987) and a 2001 Senate-for-life nomination by Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. In 1968 Dr. Levi-Montalcini became the tenth woman ever elected to the National Academy of Sciences. At age 98, she was the oldest living Nobel laureate. Rita Levi-Montalcini died December 30, 2012, at the age of 103, at her home in Rome, Italy.
 
51Name:  Robert F. Loeb
 Year Elected:  1951
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1895
 Death Date:  10/21/73
   
52Name:  Dr. Michael A. Marletta
 Institution:  University of California, Berkeley
 Year Elected:  2016
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1951
   
 
Michael A. Marletta is on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley where he holds the CH and Annie Li Chair in the Molecular Biology of Diseases. He is also Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Professor of Biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at Berkeley. Marletta is a biochemist whose creative work begins with a dissection of a biological question into a molecular framework for study. His primary research interests lie at the interface of chemistry and biology with emphasis on the study of protein function and enzyme reaction mechanisms. His work has demonstrated uncommon creativity and led to remarkable discoveries when asking chemical questions about complex biological phenomena. His work on the enzymes nitric oxide synthase and guanylate cyclase provided many of the fundamental details of nitric oxide signaling that have now become a paradigm for cellular communication involving gases. He has also discovered novel enzymes involved in biomass degradation that also play a role in pathogenesis in humans and plants. Marletta has been recognized with a MacArthur Fellowship (1995), election to the National Academy of Medicine (1999), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001), and the National Academy of Sciences (2006). He has received many awards that recognize his accomplishments including the Harrison Howe Award (2004), the Repligen Award for Chemistry of Biological Processes given by the Biological Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society (2007), the Emil T. Kaiser Award from the Protein Society (2007), the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest, Northeastern Section, American Chemical Society (2007), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities AASCU Distinguished Alumnus Award (2014), the Alfred Bader Award for Bioinorganic/Bioorganic Chemistry (2015), and the UCSF 150th Anniversary Alumni Excellence Award (2015). Marletta serves on editorial boards including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA and is a member of the Foundation Board at Fredonia, State University of New York. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2016.
 
53Name:  Dr. Rowena G. Matthews
 Institution:  University of Michigan
 Year Elected:  2009
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1938
   
 
Rowena G. Matthews is the G. Robert Greenberg Distinguished University Professor of Biological Chemistry and a Research Professor and Charter Faculty Member, Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan. She is an internationally recognized authority on the role of folate- and B12-dependent enzymes in homocysteine metabolism and their relevance to disease. Her discoveries define the biochemical basis for establishing guidelines for folate levels in human nutrition. Matthews has also played a major role in the formulation of science policy both nationally and internationally. She was a member of an international advisory panel for the Advanced Study Institutes of NATO from 1994-96, served on the Council of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences from 1991-94, and participated in the activities of the Federal Science Policy Committee on Science of the House of Representatives. Additionally, she won the 2000 William A. Rose Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the 2001 Repligen Award, from the American Chemistry Society. She has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2002 and of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences since 2005.
 
54Name:  Dr. William D. McElroy
 Institution:  University of California, San Diego
 Year Elected:  1971
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1917
 Death Date:  2/17/99
   
55Name:  Dr. Craig C. Mello
 Institution:  University of Massachusetts Medical School; Howard Hughes Medical Institute
 Year Elected:  2009
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1960
   
 
Craig C. Mello is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Mello and his colleague Andrew Fire, Ph.D., of Stanford University, received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of RNA interference (RNAi), a natural gene silencing mechanism triggered by double-stranded RNA. RNAi provides both a powerful research tool for knocking out the expression of specific genes and opens a totally unanticipated window on gene regulation. Dr. Mello holds a B.S. in biochemistry from Brown University and a Ph.D. in cellular and developmental biology from Harvard University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center before joining University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1994.
 
56Name:  Dr. Daniel Nathans
 Institution:  Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University
 Year Elected:  1985
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1928
 Death Date:  11/16/99
   
57Name:  Dr. Elizabeth F. Neufeld
 Institution:  David Geffen School of Medicine University of California, Los Angeles
 Year Elected:  1993
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1928
   
 
Elizabeth Neufeld is a leading biochemist responsible for advancing the understanding of the function of the organelles within cells known as lysosomes, which are responsible for the disposal of many molecules that have completed their usefulness to the cell. Dr. Neufeld has made use of inborn defects in lysosomal enzymes and other "experiments of nature" to discover these mechanisms, and in the process she has uncovered methods of diagnosis and management of the disorders that have been of immense benefit to patients. An effective teacher and scientific collaborator, Dr. Neufeld earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956. Currently professor emeritus of biological chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, she also worked for many years at the National Institutes of Health. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Neufeld is the recipient of awards such as the American Society of Human Genetics' William Allan Award (1982), the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award (1982) the Wolf Prize in Medicine (1988) and the National Medal of Science (1994).
 
58Name:  Dr. Marshall Nirenberg
 Institution:  National Institutes of Health
 Year Elected:  2001
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1927
 Death Date:  January 15, 2010
   
 
Marshall Nirenberg received a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 1957. He began his career with the National Institutes of Health in 1957 as a postdoctoral fellow, and joined the staff in 1960. He has been a research biochemist and chief of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, at the National Institutes of Health since 1962. Marshall Nirenberg and his coworkers deciphered the genetic code. First, they determined the base compositions of RNA codons by directing cell free protein synthesis with randomly-ordered synthetic polyribonucleotides; then, they determined the nucleotide sequences of RNA codons by directing the binding of aminoacyl-t RNA to ribosomes with trinucleotides of known sequence. They also showed that single-stranded RNA, but not double- or triple-stranded RNA, is a template for protein synthesis. Dr. Nirenberg and his colleagues discovered and characterized Drosophila and mouse homeobox genes. He has focused on one of the Drosophila homeobox genes, vnd-NK-2, which initiates the neural pathway of development in the ventral portion of the neuroectoderm and gives rise to part of the ventral nerve cord. Current studies focus on determining how a pattern of neuroblasts that express the vnd-NK-2 gene is formed in the central nervous system. Dr. Nirenberg, with Robert Holley and Har Khorana, received the Nobel Prize in 1968 for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. He is also the recipient of the Molecular Biology Award of the National Academy of Sciences in 1962, the National Medal of Science, Hildebrand Award of the American Chemical Society, Gairdner Foundation Award, Prix Charles Leopold Meyer of the French Academy of Sciences, Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute, Albert Lasker Award, Priestly Award, and the Louisa Gross Horowitz Prize. Dr. Nirenberg is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, and Leopoldina Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher. He was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2001.
 
59Name:  Dr. Severo Ochoa
 Institution:  University of Autonoma, Madrid
 Year Elected:  1961
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1905
 Death Date:  11/1/93
   
60Name:  Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera
 Institution:  University of Utah
 Year Elected:  2007
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  201. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1941
   
 
Baldomero (Toto) Olivera was born in Manila, studied chemistry at the University of the Philippines, and received his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1966 working with Norman Davidson on the Biophysical Chemistry of DNA. As a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University with I. R. Lehman, Olivera discovered and characterized E. coli DNA ligase, a key enzyme of replication and recombinant DNA technology. He returned to the Philippines in 1969, where he began to investigate pharmacologically-active peptides ("conotoxins") from the venoms of the predatory cone snails (Conus). Due to the unsettled political situation, he left the Philippines for the University of Utah in 1972 where he is now Distinguished Professor of Biology. There are ~100,000 different conotoxins; these have proven to be important tools for understanding ion channel and receptor function in nervous systems. Several conotoxins discovered in Olivera's lab have therapeutic applications, particularly for alleviating pain; one is an approved drug. Olivera's studies on cone snails have led to his present focus on the molecular and chemical basis of biodiversity.
 
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