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Kary Mullis

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Kary Banks Mullis

Born December 28, 1944(1944-12-28)
Lenoir, North Carolina, U.S.
Died August 7, 2019(2019-08-07) (aged 74)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Biochemist
Known for development of Polymerase chain reaction
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1993)

Kary Banks Mullis (December 28, 1944 – August 7, 2019) was an American biochemist. In 1993, he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Michael Smith.

The process of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was first described by Kjell Kleppe and 1968 Nobel laureate H. Gobind Khorana. It allows specific DNA sequences to be amplified (multiplied hugely). Mullis greatly improved the technique, and it became a standard tool in DNA research.[1][2]

In 1983, Mullis was working for Cetus Corp. as a chemist.[3] That spring, according to Mullis, he was driving his vehicle late one night, when he had the idea to use a pair of primers to bracket the desired DNA sequence and to copy it using DNA polymerase. This would allow a small strand of DNA to be copied almost an infinite number of times.[3] Cetus took Mullis off his usual projects to concentrate on PCR full-time.[3] Mullis succeeded in demonstrating PCR on December 16, 1983.

Cetus paid him a mere $10,000 for the discovery but later sold it to Hoffmann-La Roche, owned by Roche Holding Ltd., for $300 million.[4]

Mullis died on August 7, 2019 from pneumonia in Columbia, South Carolina at the age of 74.[5]

Related pages


  1. Saiki R. et al 1988. Primer-directed enzymatic amplification of DNA with a thermostable DNA polymerase. Science 239 (4839): 487–491. [1]
  2. Shmaefsky, Brian Robert 2006. Biotechnology 101. Google. [2] . Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Yoffe, Emily 1994. Is Kary Mullis God? Nobel Prize winner's new life. Esquire 122 (1), pp. 68–75.
  4. Wade, Nicholas (September 15, 1998) Scientist at Work: Kary Mullis; after the 'Eureka', a Nobelist drops ut", The New York Times. [3]
  5. Marchant, Bristow (August 9, 2019). "Dreher High School grad who revolutionized DNA has died". The State. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
This person won a Nobel Prize