Har Gobind Khorana, Nobel Prize Winner, Dies Aged 89

Har Gobind Khorana, winner of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has passed away from natural causes at the age of 89.

Khorana will be remembered for his landmark contributions to the field of genetics through research on the genetic code, and the mechanisms by which nucleic acids control the formation of proteins in cells. Aseem Ansari, Professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reflects on his peer’s contribution:

“He revolutionized biotechnology with his pioneering work in DNA chemistry. Khorana was an early practitioner, and perhaps a founding father, of the field of chemical biology, because he brought the power of chemical synthesis to bear on a fundamental question of the nature of the genetic code.”

At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Khorana and colleagues assisted in deciphering RNA codes for the synthesis of proteins. It was this work that led to him winning the Nobel Prize in 1968, which Khorana shared with Robert W. Holley of Cornell University and Marshall W. Nirenberg of the National Institutes of Health.

Khorana was born in India in the village of Raipur in 1922, now part of Pakistan. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from Punjab University, before studying for his Ph.D at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

He would later become the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Biology & Chemistry emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Har Gobind Khorana is survived by his son, David, and daughter, Julia. His daughter Emily Anne and his wife, Esther, predeceased him.