Nobel Laureate to discuss origins behind his invention of the polymerase chain reaction
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013
MANHATTAN -- Kary B. Mullis, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, will offer the Kansas State University campus a first-person view of the origins of a monumental 20th century scientific discovery: the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR.
In the 30 years since its invention, the polymerase chain reaction has led to numerous breakthroughs: identifying long-buried kings, analyzing viruses, tracing human lineages and rescuing people wrongly sentenced to prison.
Mullis -- the scientist behind it all and the 1993 Nobel Laureate in chemistry -- will offer insights into his invention of the polymerase chain reaction. The lecture, titled "The Unusual Origins of PCR," is at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the K-State Student Union's Forum Hall. Refreshments will be served at 2:30 p.m.
The lecture is part of the Provost's Lecture on Excellence in Scholarship and the Hageman Lecture in Agricultural Biochemistry. It is sponsored by the department of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, the department of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology, the university distinguished professors and the provost's office
"Dr. Mullis is a renowned, revered figure in biochemistry, molecular biology, human and animal medicine and many, many other scientific disciplines as a result of his discovery and implementation of the polymerase chain reaction," said Phillip Klebba, head and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics.
Mullis conceptualized the polymerase chain reaction in 1983 while developing analytical tools for DNA. He reduced the idea to practice and obtained patents for it. He received the Nobel Prize a decade later.
The polymerase chain reaction is a biochemical process that allows the repeated synthesis of DNA in a test-tube. It has revolutionized basic research on the molecular level and has multiple applications in medicine, genetics, biotechnology and forensics.
Throughout his career, Mullis worked in many areas of chemistry and biochemistry, from bacterial iron transport to molecular biology and immunology. After completing his doctoral degree in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, Mullis tried his hand at writing fiction and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kansas Medical School in pediatric cardiology. He also did pharmaceutical research at the University of California, San Francisco before joining Cetus in 1979.
Mullis served as a consultant to numerous research groups in many biotech companies. Most recently he worked on the challenging project of enhancing human immunity to newly arising pathogens.