Born: 26 April 1932, Blackpool, United Kingdom
Died: 4 October 2000, Vancouver, Canada
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Prize motivation: "for his fundamental contributions to the establishment of oligonucleotide-based, site-directed mutagenesis and its development for protein studies"
Prize share: 1/2
From a DNA molecule, an organism's genetic code is transferred to RNA, after which it is converted during protein formation. Around 1980, Michael Smith developed a method by which combined DNA building blocks could be artificially bonded with DNA molecules that were then inserted into an organism where they were copied. The result was an artificial mutation; the genetic code was altered so that specific amino acids in the proteins were replaced. The opportunities this method provides to tailor proteins have been of major importance in both research and industry.