Scientist who first synthesised DNA

Arthur Kornberg, the Stanford University Nobel laureate who first synthesised DNA in a test tube and whose identification of the enzymes used by cells to manufacture DNA laid the basis for the biotechnology industry, died of respiratory failure on Friday at Stanford Hospital. He was 89.
A prolific researcher, Kornberg also created the Stanford University School of Medicine's biochemistry department, bringing in a talented group of scientists who worked together for nearly half a century.

Kornberg lived to see his son Roger win the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
It is often hard to conceive how little was known about the mysterious DNA molecule when Kornberg began his research in the 1950s. Scientists were pretty sure that it was the repository of genetic information. Beyond that, DNA was a black hole.
In the second world war Kornberg developed an interest in enzymes, the large proteins used by cells to carry out chemical reactions, especially the synthesis of substances used by cells.
After preliminary work isolating enzymes involved in vitamin production, Kornberg tackled the more difficult challenge of DNA and RNA, the messenger molecule used by cells in the conversion of genetic information contained in DNA into proteins.
Kornberg reasoned that cells would produce DNA by stringing together pre-made nucleotides – combinations of a base, a sugar molecule and a phosphate group.
While Kornberg was working on the project in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick published the structure of DNA, providing clues to direct his efforts. By the following year, Kornberg and his colleagues had isolated the enzymes used to produce the nucleotides used in RNA and DNA.
By 1957, Kornberg had discovered and purified the key molecule, called DNA polymerase, and submitted two papers describing the work to the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Referees, however, objected to calling the material produced by the enzyme DNA.
Disgusted, Kornberg withdrew the papers, but they were published the following year when the journal appointed a new editor.
His work confirmed speculation by Watson and Crick that genetic information was encoded in opposite directions on the two strands of double-helical DNA.
In 1959, Kornberg shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the synthesis of DNA.

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