Born: 23 June 1925, Halifax, United Kingdom
Died: 10 January 2017, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells"
Prize share: 1/3
DNA carries organisms' genomes and also determines their vital processes. The ability to artificially alter DNA opens the way to both new scientific understanding and new treatment methods for various illnesses. In conjunction with attempts to find treatment methods for hereditary blood diseases, Oliver Smithies discovered that a disease-causing gene could be modified. In 1986, Oliver Smithies and Mario Capecchi were able to achieve specific modifications in the genomes of mice. By inactivating specific genes, their functions could be determined.
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