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Defining Moments

Daniel M. Nathans M.D.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1978
Nobel co-recipients Werner Arber, Hamilton O. Smith
National Medal of Science - Biological Sciences 1993

Physician, Molecular Biologist - Genetics. Restriction enzymes and their application to molecular genetics. Groundwork for human genome project, drug insulin. Able administrator - high signal-to-noise ratio.

"Valuable internship year in medicine with masterful clinician Robert Loeb; The glimpses of human strength and frailty that a physician sees are still with me."

Defining Moments

Daniel Nathans, as a physician, chose to take a break during residency training, He became a Clinical Associate at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. He divided his time between caring for patients receiving experimental cancer chemotherapy and research on recently discovered plasma-cell tumors in mice which are similar to human multiple myeloma. Sticking to him was how little was known about cancer biology. This aroused his interest in protein synthesis in myeloma tumors. The first papers he published were regarding research on this topic.

In the mid-1960s, there were two virologists in his department. Both of them left the department. Hence, he was requested to give some lectures on animal viruses. While preparing for these lectures he became interested in tumor viruses for similar to bacterial viruses, there was a promise of their becoming excellent models of genetic mechanisms in the cells which they infected. In 1969 he spent a six-month sabbatical at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. There he learned cell-culture techniques and became acquainted with simian virus 40 (SV40) which is a small tumor virus.

Nathans
Daniel Nathans as teenager, leaning on tree stump, 1942-1945.Photo: National Library of Medicine, USA

Name: Daniel M. Nathans
Birth: 30 October 1928, Wilmington, DE, USA
Death: 16 November 1999, Baltimore, MD, USA
Institution: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
Award: "for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics"
Subject: Genetics, molecular biology
Portion of cash: 1/3
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