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Carolina ties to the Nobel Prize

For immediate use

Oct. 8, 2007

Oliver Smithies, Ph.D., Excellence professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, is the first full-time Carolina faculty member to win a Nobel Prize. His award, for medicine or physiology, was announced on Monday, Oct. 8, 2007

Other Nobel winners with ties to UNC are:

Peter Agre, chemistry, 2003:
Fellow, hematology/oncology, 1978-1981
Agre isolated a membrane protein that serves as a channel to transport water between cells. This discovery opened the door to a whole series of biochemical, physiological and genetic studies of water channels in bacteria, plants and mammals. Today, researchers can follow in detail a water molecule on its way through the cell membrane and understand why only water, not other small molecules or ions, can pass.

Robert F. Furchgott, physiology or medicine, 1998:
Alumnus, BA in chemistry, 1937; honorary doctorate, 1984
Furchgott shared the prize with Louis Ignarro and Ferid Murad.
Furchgott’s research into blood vessel walls led to discoveries about smooth muscle cells and the molecule EDRF, the endothelium-derived relaxing factor. This discovery was key in the development of the drug Viagra. 

Louis Ignarro, physiology or medicine, 1998:
Honorary doctorate, 1984  
Ignarro shared the Nobel with Robert Furchgott and Ferid Murad.
His work complimented Furchgott’s and found that EDRF was identical to nitric oxide. This revealed that a gas can act as a signal molecule.

Martin Rodbell, physiology or medicine, 1994:
Former adjunct professor
Rodbell’s work was in G proteins and discovering the “universal signal” telling cells how to communicate properly. He was invited to become an adjunct professor in the UNC biochemistry department in 1987.
Rudolph Marcus, chemistry, 1992:
Post-doctoral fellow, 1951; faculty, 1951-1952
Marcus was rewarded for his theoretical work on electron transfer, which has greatly stimulated experimental developments in chemistry. The Marcus theory describes, and makes predictions concerning, a wide breadth of chemical phenomena

Gertrude B. Elion and George H. Hitchings, physiology or medicine, 1988:
Former adjunct professors
Elion and Hitchings shared the Nobel Prize with Sir James Black for their research leading to drugs combating AIDS, herpes, leukemia and malaria. Elion and Hitchings worked at Burroughs Research Laboratories in Research Triangle Park and were adjunct professors at the UNC School of Medicine. They served in the department of pharmacology for 11 and five years respectively. Hitchings also received an honorary doctorate in science degree from UNC and a Distinguished Service Award from the UNC School of Medicine. Hitchings died in 1998; Elion died in 1999.