Russell Saiki Biography & Facts
Kary Banks Mullis (December 28, 1944 – August 7, 2019) was an American biochemist. In recognition of his role in the invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique, he shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Michael Smith and was awarded the Japan Prize in the same year. PCR became a central technique in biochemistry and molecular biology, described by The New York Times as "highly original and significant, virtually dividing biology into the two epochs of before PCR and after PCR."
Mullis attracted controversy for downplaying humans' role in climate change and for expressing doubts that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS.
Mullis was born in Lenoir, North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Mountains, on December 28, 1944 to Cecil Banks Mullis and Bernice Barker Mullis. His family had a background in farming in this rural area. As a child, Mullis said, he was interested in observing organisms in the countryside. He and his cousins would often taunt livestock by feeding them through electric fences, and Kary was mostly interested in the spiders in his grandparents' basement. He grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, where he attended Dreher High School, graduating in the class of 1962. He recalled his interest in chemistry beginning when he learned how to chemically synthesize and build solid fuel propulsion rockets as a high school student during the 1960s.He earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in 1966, during which time he married his first wife, Richards Haley, and started a business. He earned his PhD in 1973 in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), in J. B. Neilands' laboratory, which focused on synthesis and structure of bacterial iron transporter molecules. Although he published a sole-author paper in Nature in the field of astrophysics in 1968, he struggled to pass his oral exams (with a colleague recalling that "He didn’t get his propositions right. He didn’t know general biochemistry"), and his dissertation was accepted only after several friends pitched in to "cut all the whacko stuff out of it" while his advisor lobbied the committee to reconsider its initial decision.His doctoral dissertation was on the structure of the bacterial siderophore schizokinen. J. B. Neilands was known for his groundbreaking work on siderophores, and Mullis was a part of that with his characterization of schizokinen. Following his graduation, Mullis completed postdoctoral fellowships in pediatric cardiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center (1973-1977) and pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco (1977-1979).
After receiving his doctorate, Mullis briefly left science to write fiction before accepting the University of Kansas fellowship. During his postdoctoral work, he managed a bakery for two years. Mullis returned to science at the encouragement of UC Berkeley friend and colleague Thomas White, who secured Mullis's UCSF position and later helped Mullis land a position with the biotechnology company Cetus Corporation of Emeryville, California. Despite little experience in molecular biology, Mullis worked as a DNA chemist at Cetus for seven years, ultimately serving as head of the DNA synthesis lab under White, then the firm's director of molecular and biological research; it was there, in 1983, that Mullis invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) procedure.Mullis acquired a reputation for erratic behavior at Cetus, once threatening to bring a gun to work; he also engaged in "public lovers' quarrels" with his then-girlfriend (a fellow chemist at the company) and "nearly came to blows with another scientist" at a staff party, according to California Magazine. White recalled: "It definitely put me in a tough spot. His behavior was so outrageous that the other scientists thought that the only reason I didn't fire him outright was that he was a friend of mine."After resigning from Cetus in 1986, Mullis served as director of molecular biology for Xytronyx, Inc. in San Diego for two years. While inventing a UV-sensitive ink at Xytronyx, he became skeptical of the existence of the ozone hole.
Thereafter, Mullis worked intermittently as a consultant for multiple corporations and institutions on nucleic acid chemistry and as an expert witness specializing in DNA profiling. While writing a National Institutes of Health grant progress report on the development of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test for Specialty Labs, he became skeptical that HIV was the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In 1992, Mullis founded a business to sell pieces of jewelry containing the amplified DNA of deceased famous people such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. In the same year, he also founded Atomic Tags in La Jolla, California. The venture sought to develop technology using atomic-force microscopy and bar-coded antibodies tagged with heavy metals to create highly multiplexed, parallel immunoassays.
Mullis was a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Advisory Board. In 2014, he was named a distinguished researcher at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California.
PCR and other inventions
In 1983, Mullis was working for Cetus Corporation as a chemist. Mullis recalled that, while driving in the vicinity of his country home in Mendocino County (with his girlfriend, who also was a chemist at Cetus), he had the idea to use a pair of primers to bracket the desired DNA sequence and to copy it using DNA polymerase; a technique that would allow rapid amplification of a small stretch of DNA and become a standard procedure in molecular biology laboratories. Longtime professional benefactor and supervisor Thomas White reassigned Mullis from his usual projects to concentrate on PCR full-time after the technique was met with skepticism by their colleagues. Mullis succeeded in demonstrating PCR on December 16, 1983, but the staff remained circumspect as he continued to produce ambiguous results amid alleged methodological problems, including a perceived lack of "appropriate controls and repetition." In his Nobel Prize lecture, he remarked that the December 16 breakthrough did not make up for his girlfriend breaking up with him: "I was sagging as I walked out to my little silver Honda Civic. Neither [assistant] Fred, empty Beck's bottles, nor the sweet smell of the dawn of the age of PCR could replace Jenny. I was lonesome."Other Cetus scientists who were regarded as "top-notch experimentalists", including Randall Saiki, Henry Erlich, and Norman Arnheim, were placed on parallel PCR projects to work on determining if PCR could amplify a specific human gene (betaglobin) from genomic DNA. Saiki generated the needed data and Erlich authored the first paper to include utilization of the technique, while Mullis was still working on the paper that would describe PCR itself. Mullis's 1985 paper with .... Discover the Russell Saiki popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Russell Saiki books.