Ernst Boris Chain
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1945
Born: 19 June 1906, Berlin, Germany
Died: 12 August 1979, Mulrany, Ireland
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases."
Prize share: 1/3
After Alexander Fleming's 1928 discovery that a certain mold produced a substance called penicillin that inhibited the growth of bacteria, it was not a major leap to think that penicillin could be used as a pharmaceutical. However, the substance proved to be unstable and difficult to produce in pure form. Ernst Boris Chain, Howard Florey, and their colleagues succeeded in systematically producing a pure form of penicillin at the beginning of the 1940s and in investigating its properties in more detail. Additional efforts led to a pharmaceutical that could be produced in larger quantities.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.