The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1959
Born: 24 September 1905, Luarca, Spain
Died: 1 November 1993, Madrid, Spain
Affiliation at the time of the award: New York University, College of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid."
Prize share: 1/2
The substances known as DNA and RNA bear organisms' genetic code and also determine their vital processes. Severo Ochoa investigated how DNA and RNA are formed and which enzymes control this process. By studying bacteria, Ochoa and Marianne Grunberg-Manago discovered an enzyme in 1955 that can join nucleotides - the building blocks of RNA and DNA - together. Initially, it was thought that this enzyme assembled RNA based on information contained in DNA. This was later proven to be incorrect, although the enzyme proved to have other important functions nonetheless.