Michael Smith developer of site-directed mutagenesis technique

Michael Smith – developer of site-directed mutagenesis technique

Article on Michael Smith

Biography & Contributions

Michael Smith was a British chemist and Nobel laureate born on April 26, 1932 – died on October 4, 2000.  Smith was best known for developing site-directed mutagenesis.

Smith got many notable awards, medals in his career like Science Council of British Columbia Gold Medal in the year of 1984, Genetics Society of Canada Award of Excellence in the year of 1988, Flavelle Medal in the year of 1922, Nobel Prize for Chemistry in the year of 1993, Manning Innovation Awards Foundation Prize in the year of 1994, BC Biotechnology Award for Innovation and Achievement in the year of 1999.

Smith's research career began with a post-doctoral fellowship at the British Columbia Research Council under the supervision of Khorana, who was developing new techniques of synthesizing nucleotides.

He got Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his development of a technique called oligonucleotide-based site-directed mutagenesis. This site directed mutagenesis helped the scientists to solve the problems and study the various processes in following sectors like to dissect the structure and function, relationships involved in protein plaque formation in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer disease, study the feasibility of gene therapy approaches for cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell disease, and hemophilia, determine the characteristics of protein receptors at neurotransmitter binding sites and design analogs with novel pharmaceutical properties, examine the viral proteins involved in immunodeficiency disease, and improve the properties of industrial enzymes used in food science and technology.

In Khorana's lab, Smith had been successfully creating synthetic nucleotides, or oligonucleotides. Through oligonucleotide site-directed mutagenesis, scientists can now select any naturally occurring sequence of genes and replace it with genes created in a laboratory through chemical processes, to gain specific intentional results.


Nucleotides are organic molecules, building blocks of nucleic acids that serve as the monomers, or subunits, of nucleic acids like DNA and RNA. These nucleotides are composed of a nitrogenous base, a five-carbon sugar, and at least one phosphate group. Nucleotides serve to carry packets of energy within the cell in the form of the nucleoside triphosphates.

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