Paul L. Modrich

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Paul Modrich
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Paul L. Modrich, Nobel Laureate in chemistry in Stockholm December 2015
Paul Lawrence Modrich

(1946-06-13) June 13, 1946 (age 73)
Nationality United States
Alma mater MIT
Stanford University (PhD)
Known forClarification of cellular resistance to carcinogens
Scientific career
Fields DNA mismatch repair
Doctoral advisor Robert Lehman

Paul Lawrence Modrich (born June 13, 1946) is an American biochemist, James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is known for his research on DNA mismatch repair. [1] Modrich received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015, jointly with Aziz Sancar and Tomas Lindahl. [2] [3]

Biochemist Scientist specialized in biochemistry

Biochemists are scientists that are trained in biochemistry.

At Duke University, the title of James B. Duke Professor is given to a small number of the faculty with extraordinary records of achievement. At some universities, titles like "distinguished professor", "institute professor", or "regents professor" are counterparts of this title. Two Nobel laureates currently serve as James B. Duke Professors.

Biochemistry study of chemical processes in living organisms

Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms. Biochemical processes give rise to the complexity of life.


Early life and education

Paul Modrich presenting himself

Modrich was born on June 13, 1946, in Raton, New Mexico to Laurence Modrich and Margaret McTurk. [4] He has a younger brother Dave. [5] His father was a biology teacher and coach for basketball, football and tennis at Raton High School where he graduated in 1964. [5] Modrich is of German, Scotch-Irish, Croatian and Montenegrin descent. His paternal grandfather, of Croatian descent, and grandmother of Montenegrin descent, immigrated to the United States from coastal Croatia, little village Modrići near Zadar in the late 19th century. [4] [6] [7] His maternal family is of mixed German and Scotch-Irish descent. [4] Modrich married fellow scientist Vickers Burdett in 1980. [8]

Raton, New Mexico City in New Mexico, United States

Raton is a city and the county seat of Colfax County in northeastern New Mexico. The city is located just south of Raton Pass. The city is also located approximately 6.5 miles south of the New Mexico/ Colorado border and 85 miles west of Texas.

Modrić (surname) Surname list

Modrić is a Croatian surname primarily from Zadar-Benkovac area in North Dalmatia. In Zaton Obrovački in Benkovac area every third inhabitant had the family name Modrić, where also exist a hamlet Modrići. Today, circa 1930 people carry it, making it 212th most numerous surname in Croatia, almost doubling the 1948 census number, in almost all Croatian counties and many cities and villages, but mostly Zagreb, Glavice near Sinj, Rijeka, Zadar, Split, Obrovac among others, and less in Northern Croatia and Slavonia. According to some sources, the noble part of the family is from Podgorje area on the littoral slopes of Velebit, between Senj in the North and river Zrmanja in the South, where came at least in the 17th century from Dalmatia (Podzrmanje). Outside Croatia, due to migration the surname can be found in Algeria, United States, Germany, Austria, Argentina, Slovenia, France, Serbia, Italy, Australia and so on.

Raton High School (RHS) is a public senior high school in Raton, New Mexico. It is a part of the Raton Public Schools district.

Modrich obtained a B.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and subsequently a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in 1973. [4]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology University in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university, with an urban campus that extends more than a mile alongside the Charles River. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength, making it one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

Doctor of Philosophy Postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities in many countries

A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. As an earned research degree, those studying for a PhD are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields. Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor or, in non-English-speaking countries, variants such as "Dr. phil." with their name, although the proper etiquette associated with this usage may also be subject to the professional ethics of their own scholarly field, culture, or society. Those who teach at universities or work in academic, educational, or research fields are usually addressed by this title "professionally and socially in a salutation or conversation." Alternatively, holders may use post-nominal letters such as "Ph.D.", "PhD", or "DPhil". It is, however, considered incorrect to use both the title and post-nominals at the same time.

Stanford University Private research university in Stanford, California

Leland Stanford Junior University is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic strength, wealth, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world's top universities.


Modrich became an assistant professor at the chemistry department of University of California, Berkeley in 1974. [4] He joined Duke University's faculty in 1976 and has been a Howard Hughes Investigator since 1995. He works primarily on strand-directed mismatch repair. His lab demonstrated how DNA mismatch repair serves as a copyeditor to prevent errors from DNA polymerase. Matthew Meselson previously proposed the existence of recognition of mismatches. Modrich performed biochemical experiments to study mismatch repair in E. coli. [9] They later searched for proteins associated with mismatch repair in humans. [1]

University of California, Berkeley Public university in California, USA

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. It was founded in 1868 and serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has since grown to instruct over 40,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines.

DNA Molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known organisms and many viruses

Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses. DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are nucleic acids; alongside proteins, lipids and complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides), nucleic acids are one of the four major types of macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life.

Matthew Stanley Meselson is a geneticist and molecular biologist currently at Harvard University, known for his demonstration, with Franklin Stahl, of semi-conservative DNA replication. After completing his Ph.D under Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology, Meselson became a Professor at Harvard University in 1960, where he has remained, today, as Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences.

Honors and awards

Honors and awards received by Modrich include: [10]

The Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry, formerly known as the Paul-Lewis Award in Enzyme Chemistry was established in 1945. Consisting of a gold medal and honorarium, its purpose is to stimulate fundamental research in enzyme chemistry by scientists not over forty years of age. The Award is administered by the Division of Biological Chemistry of the American Chemical Society.

The Charles S. Mott Prize was awarded annually by the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation as one of a trio of scientific prizes entirely devoted to cancer research, the other two being the Charles F. Kettering Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize. The prizes, worth US$250,000, were awarded annually between 1979 and 2005. The awards were generally considered the most prestigious in the field.

The Robert J. And Claire Pasarow Foundation Medical Research Awards were awarded annually for distinguished accomplishment in areas of investigation that included neuropsychiatry, cardiovascular disease, and cancer research. The program ran from 1987 to 2013. Each area of research was allocated US$50,000 to award to its winners.

Modrich is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences United States honorary society and center for independent policy research

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. Founded in 1780, the Academy is dedicated to honoring excellence and leadership, working across disciplines and divides, and advancing the common good.

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly called the Institute of Medicine (IoM), is an American nonprofit, non-governmental organization. The National Academy of Medicine is a part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Research Council (NRC).

National Academy of Sciences science branch of the United States National Academies

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a United States nonprofit, non-governmental organization. NAS is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

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Frederick Sanger British biochemist

Frederick Sanger was a British biochemist who twice won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one of only two people to have done so in the same category, the fourth person overall with two Nobel Prizes, and the third person overall with two Nobel Prizes in the sciences. In 1958, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin". In 1980, Walter Gilbert and Sanger shared half of the chemistry prize "for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids". The other half was awarded to Paul Berg "for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant DNA".

DNA polymerase Enzyme that synthesizes DNA from a DNA template

DNA polymerase is an enzyme that synthesizes DNA molecules from deoxyribonucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. These enzymes are essential for DNA replication and usually work in pairs to create two identical DNA strands from a single original DNA molecule. During this process, DNA polymerase "reads" the existing DNA strands to create two new strands that match the existing ones.

Cancer Research UK charity which conducts research on cancer

Cancer Research UK is a cancer research and awareness charity in the United Kingdom and Isle of Man, formed on 4 February 2002 by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Its aim is to reduce the number of deaths from cancer. As the world's largest independent cancer research charity it conducts research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Research activities are carried out in institutes, universities and hospitals across the UK, both by the charity's own employees and by its grant-funded researchers. It also provides information about cancer and runs campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the disease and influencing public policy.

Paul Berg American biochemist, Professor emeritus at Stanford University & Nobel laureate in Chemistry

Paul Berg is an American biochemist and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1980, along with Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger. The award recognized their contributions to basic research involving nucleic acids. Berg received his undergraduate education at Penn State University, where he majored in biochemistry. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in 1952. Berg worked as a professor at Washington University School of Medicine and Stanford University School of Medicine, in addition to serving as the director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine. In addition to the Nobel Prize, Berg was presented with the National Medal of Science in 1983 and the National Library of Medicine Medal in 1986. Berg is a member of the Board of Sponsors for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

DNA repair Processes by which a cell identifies and corrects damage to the DNA molecules that encode its genome

DNA repair is a collection of processes by which a cell identifies and corrects damage to the DNA molecules that encode its genome. In human cells, both normal metabolic activities and environmental factors such as radiation can cause DNA damage, resulting in as many as 1 million individual molecular lesions per cell per day. Many of these lesions cause structural damage to the DNA molecule and can alter or eliminate the cell's ability to transcribe the gene that the affected DNA encodes. Other lesions induce potentially harmful mutations in the cell's genome, which affect the survival of its daughter cells after it undergoes mitosis. As a consequence, the DNA repair process is constantly active as it responds to damage in the DNA structure. When normal repair processes fail, and when cellular apoptosis does not occur, irreparable DNA damage may occur, including double-strand breaks and DNA crosslinkages. This can eventually lead to malignant tumors, or cancer as per the two hit hypothesis.

Jacqueline Barton American chemist

Jacqueline K. Barton, is an American chemist. She worked as a Professor of Chemistry at Hunter College (1980–82), and at Columbia University (1983–89) before joining the California Institute of Technology. In 1997 she became the Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor of Chemistry and in 2009, the Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech. She currently is the John G. Kirkwood and Arthur A. Noyes Professor and Norman Davidson Leadership Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

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DNA mismatch repair

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Miroslav Radman is a prominent Croatian-French biologist.

Aziz Sancar Turkish scientist, professor in Biochemistry

Aziz Sancar is a Turkish biochemist and molecular biologist specializing in DNA repair, cell cycle checkpoints, and circadian clock. In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Tomas Lindahl and Paul L. Modrich for their mechanistic studies of DNA repair. He has made contributions on photolyase and nucleotide excision repair in bacteria that have changed his field.

London Research Institute British research institute

The Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (LRI) was a biological research facility which conducted research into the basic biology of cancer.

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Frances Hamilton Arnold is an American chemical engineer and Nobel Laureate. She is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In 2018, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for pioneering the use of directed evolution to engineer enzymes.

Tomas Lindahl Nobel prize winning Swedish biologist

Tomas Robert Lindahl FRS FMedSci is a Swedish-born British scientist specialising in cancer research. In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with American chemist Paul L. Modrich and Turkish chemist Aziz Sancar for mechanistic studies of DNA repair.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation, and awarded by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on proposal of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry which consists of five members elected by Academy. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

Francis Crick Institute Biomedical research centre in London

The Francis Crick Institute is a biomedical research centre in London, which opened in 2016. The institute is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Imperial College London, King's College London (KCL), the Medical Research Council, University College London (UCL) and the Wellcome Trust. The institute has 1,500 staff, including 1,250 scientists, and an annual budget of over £100 million, making it the biggest single biomedical laboratory in Europe.

Stephen C. West British biochemist

Stephen Craig West FRS is a British biochemist and molecular biologist specialising in research on DNA recombination and repair. He is known for pioneering studies on genome instability diseases including cancer. West obtained his BSc in 1974, and his PhD in 1977, both from Newcastle University. He is currently a Senior Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute in London. He is an honorary Professor at University College London, and at Imperial College London. He was awarded the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine in 2007, is a fellow of the Royal Society, and a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

Nikola Panayot Pavletich is the chair of structural biology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


  1. 1 2 "Paul Modrich Awarded 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry". HHMI. HHMI. October 7, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  2. Broad, William J. (October 7, 2015). "Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for DNA Studies". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  3. Staff (October 7, 2015). "THE NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY 2015 - DNA repair – providing chemical stability for life" (PDF). Nobel Prize . Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Paul Modrich - Biographical". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  5. 1 2 Simonich, Milan (October 8, 2015). "Childhood in Raton helped shape life of Nobel winner in chemistry". The Taos News. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  6. Nenad Jarić Dauenhauer (October 26, 2015). "Nobelovac Modrich za tportal: Djed mi je bio Hrvat" [Nobel laureate Modrich for tportal: My grandfather was a Croat]. T-Hrvatski Telekom . Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  7. "Split: Večer s nobelovcima". Hrvatska radiotelevizija. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  8. "For Paul Modrich, frenzy and failures yield truths". News & Observer. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  9. Su, SS; Modrich, P (July 1986). "Escherichia coli mutS-encoded protein binds to mismatched DNA base pairs". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 83 (14): 5057–61. doi:10.1073/pnas.83.14.5057. PMC   323889 . PMID   3014530.
  10. "Paul L. Modrich (PhD '73)". Stanford Medicine Alumni Association. Retrieved November 30, 2018.