Dr. Hargobind Khorana was born on 9th January 1922 at Raipur, Punjab (now in Pakistan). Dr.Khorana was responsible for producing the first man-made gene in his laboratory in the early seventies. This historic invention won him the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1968 sharing it with M.W. Nuremberg and R.W. Holley for interpreting the genetic code and analyzing its function in protein synthesis. They all independently made contributions to the understanding of the genetic code and how it works in the cell.
Khorana, born into a poor family attended D.A.V. High School in Multan, took his M.Sc from Punjab University at Lahore and in 1945 he went to England on a government scholarship and obtained a PhD from the University of Liverpool (1948). Dr. Khorana spent a year in Zurich in 1948-49 as a post-doctoral fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and returned to India for a brief period in 1949.
He returned to England in 1950 and spent two years on a fellowship at Cambridge and began research on nucleic acids under Sir Alexander Todd and Kenner. His interest in proteins and nucleic acids took root at that time. In 1952 he went to the University of British Columbia, Vancouver on a job offer and there a group began to work in the field of biologically interesting phosphate esters and nucleic acids with the inspiration from Dr. Gordon M. Shrum and Scientific counsel from Dr. Jack Campbell. In 1960 he joined the University of Wisconsin as Professor and co-Director of the Institute of Enzyme Research and Professor of Biochemistry (1962-70) and became an US citizen. Khorana continued research on nucleic acid synthesis and prepared the first artificial copy of a yeast gene. Dr. Khorana is also the first to synthesize oligonucleotides, that is, strings of nucleotides. These custom designed pieces of artificial genes are widely used in biology labs for sequencing, cloning and engineering new plants and animals. The oligo nucleotides, thus, have become indispensable tools in biotechnology. In 1970 he became the Alfred Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Khorana now settled in America, is married to Esther Elizabeth Sibler from Switzerland and they have three children.
Apart from the Nobel Prize, Khorana has won many awards and honors for his achievement. Distinguished Service Award, Watumull Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii (1968); American Academy of Achievement Award, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1971); Padma Vibushan, Presidential Award, India (1972); J.C.Bose Medal, Bose Institute, Calcutta (1972) and Willard Gibbs medal of the Chicago Section of American Chemical Society (1973-74). He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington as well as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1971 he became a foreign member of USSR Academy of Sciences and in 1974 an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Chemical Society.
Khorana's work, which is an important scientific landmark of the twentieth century, has brought closer the day when synthetic DNA may be introduced into the defective human tissues to bring about their repair or treat mentally retarded people and change them into more intelligent and healthy human beings. His synthesis of RNA, capable of replication in laboratory, is a step towards the creation of life artificially.
In fact, the researches has opened up a new branch called Genetic Engineering in
Dr. Hargobind Khorana
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