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Saturday 21st September 2019

Double Nobel Prize winning biochemist dies

25th November 2013

Frederick Sanger is the only Briton and chemist to have been awarded the Nobel Prize twice in his lifetime. His work played a pivotal role in the fields of biology, genetics and genomics and how we understand them today.

frederick_sangerThe first of his Nobel Prizes came in 1958 with the discovery of the process for calculating the precise chemical structure of proteins, insulin in particular. His second Nobel Prize, in 1980, was for the development of 'Sanger sequencing'. A process that allows long stretches of DNA to be rapidly and accurately sequenced.  This process is still widely used today.

Professor Colin Blakemore, the former chief executive of the UK Medical Research Council, said: "It is impossible to exaggerate the impact of Fred Sanger's work on modern biomedical science."

Born in 1918 in Gloucestershire, Sanger followed a career in biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. In 1986 he was awarded one of Britain's highest honours - the Order of Merit. However, he declined a knighthood, as he did not want to be called a "Sir". In 1993, he was asked to open the 'Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute' in Cambridgeshire. When the founding director of the eponymous institute asked Dr Sanger if he was comfortable with the site being named after him, his response was: "It had better be good".

With news this year of the new England Genomics project, it is easy to see the legacy of Sanger's work and the way it continues to transform healthcare. From a self-proclaimed 'chap who messed about in his lab', he is seen by many as the 'Father of Genomics' and a 'real hero of British science'.

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