ASBMB Nobel Prize Winners

1984 – R. Bruce Merrifield

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Merrifield

Robert Bruce Merrifield (1921-2006) was awarded the 1984 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a simple method for synthesizing chains of amino acids. Merrifield developed his method during the 1950s and 1960s, when he assembled a peptide chain in a stepwise manner by attaching one end to a solid support (which was later removed by the proper solvents). Not only did this method facilitate purification of the intermediate product prior to the addition of another bond, it also allowed him to use excess reagents to help drive the reactions to completion. Merrifield eventually devised the first prototype of an automated peptide synthesizer and used it to synthesize pancreatic ribonuclease A, an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of RNA into smaller components.