Har Gobind Khorana was an Indian American biochemist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research that showed how the order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell, control the cell’s synthesis of proteins. Khorana and Nirenberg were also awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in the same year.
Google celebrates Har Gobind Khorana’s 96th Birthday on Jan 9, 2018.
Khorana was born in Raipur, British India (today Tehsil Kabirwala, Punjab, Pakistan).
He was the youngest of five children of Ganpat Rai Khorana, a taxation clerk and Krishna Devi Khorana.
He served on the faculty of the University of British Columbia from 1952-1960, where he initiated his Nobel Prize winning work. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1966, and subsequently received the National Medal of Science.
He co-directed the Institute for Enzyme Research, became a professor of biochemistry in 1962 and was named Conrad A. Elvehjem Professor of Life Sciences at University of Wisconsin–Madison.
He served as MIT’s Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry, Emeritus and was a member of the Board of Scientific Governors at The Scripps Research Institute.
Khorana was the first scientist to chemically synthesize oligonucleotides.
He extended the above to long DNA polymers using non-aqueous chemistry and assembled these into the first synthetic gene, using polymerase and ligase enzymes that link pieces of DNA together, as well as methods that anticipated the invention of PCR.
Khorana was elected as Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1978. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Government of India (DBT Department of Biotechnology), and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum jointly created the Khorana Program in 2007. The mission of the Khorana Program is to build a seamless community of scientists, industrialists, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and India.
The program is focused on three objectives: Providing graduate and undergraduate students with a transformative research experience, engaging partners in rural development and food, security, and facilitating public-private partnerships between the U.S. and India. In 2009, Khorana was hosted by the Khorana Program and honored at the 33rd Steenbock Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin.
Khorana died of natural causes on 9 November 2011 in Concord, Massachusetts, aged 89. A widower since 2001, he was survived by his children Julia and Davel.