ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1978 – Daniel Nathans



Daniel Nathans (1928-1999) received one-third of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of restriction enzymes – used by cells to splice two pieces of DNA -- and their application to problems of molecular genetics. Nathans used a restriction enzyme, previously isolated from the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae by fellow Nobel Prize winner Hamilton Othanel Smith, to investigate the structure of the DNA of the simian virus 40, the simplest virus known to produce cancerous tumors. This allowed scientists to study the molecular basis of cancer, as well as the development of prenatal tests for genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.