Born: 8 September 1946, Savur, Turkey
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Prize motivation: "for mechanistic studies of DNA repair"
Prize share: 1/3
Aziz Sancar was born in Savur in southeast Turkey in a lower middle class family. His parents had no education but considered education important for their children. Sancar studied at Istanbul University and at the University of Texas, Dallas, where his received his doctorate in 1977. He is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill. Aziz Sancar is married to Gwen Boles Sancar who also is a professor in biochemistry and biophysics.
Living cells have DNA molecules that carry an organism's genes. For the organism to live and develop, its DNA cannot change. DNA molecules are not completely stable, and they can be damaged. In 1983, through studies of bacteria, Aziz Sancar showed how certain protein molecules, certain repair enzymes, repair DNA damaged by ultraviolet (UV) light. These discoveries have increased our understanding of how the living cell works, the causes of cancer and aging processes.