WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-05 > 1148722880
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: MERRIFIELD: Robert Bruce Merrifield--d.14/5/2006>USA
Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 10:41:20 +0100
Bruce Merrifield, who died on May 14 aged 84, was awarded the 1984 Nobel
Prize in Chemistry for developing a simple and ingenious new method of
Peptides are the building blocks of proteins, and their synthesis opened the
way for scientists to carry out a systematic study of the structure of
enzymes, hormones, antibodies and other organic molecules, leading to
important advances in biochemistry, pharmacology and medicine.
In the early days of protein synthesis, chemists "grew" the chemicals in
liquid solutions, a laborious and fiddly process that could take years and
often ended in failure.
In 1963 Merrifield published a paper in which he suggested that a more
efficient method might be to bind a peptide to an insoluble support, then
add its amino acid building blocks sequentially, one at a time, washing away
the chemical reagents at the end of each synthesis step.
Merrifield's idea - solid phase peptide synthesis - was initially regarded
with scepticism. But, working with a colleague, John Stewart, Merrifield
built an automated peptide synthesis machine which they used successfully to
synthesise proteins such as rubonuclease A, bradykinin, angiotensin,
desmino-oxytocin and insulin. Merrifield's method made it possible to do in
a matter of days what had previously taken years to achieve. The method has
been especially important for the development of new, active therapeutic
Robert Bruce Merrifield was born at Fort Worth, Texas, on July 15 1921 and
grew up in southern California. He took a degree and then a doctorate in
Chemistry from UCLA, where he taught as a graduate and then worked as a
research assistant at the medical school.
In 1949 he moved to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now
Rockefeller University) as an assistant to DW Woolley.
The idea of solid phase peptide synthesis arose from his work in helping
Woolley to determine the structure of a bacterial growth which Woolley had
discovered, which was believed to be a peptide. Merrifield was successful in
isolating aopentapeptide, but need to synthesise it chemically to analyse
its structure. By the end of 1963 he had worked out how.
Merrifield remained at Rockefeller University for the rest of his career,
becoming Professor in 1966 and John D Rockefeller Jr Professor in 1983. In
1968 he served as the first Nobel Guest Professor at Uppsala, Sweden. In
1993 he published his autobiography, Life during a Golden Age of Peptide
Merrifield dedicated a large part of his research to refining the
methodology of solid phase synthesis and worked on the design and synthesis
of good antagonists of the hormone glucagon, which may be useful for the
control of blood sugar in diabetics.
Merrifield never patented his machine, preferring the technology to be
freely available to research scientists. Thus he never capitalised on his
discovery and would sometimes joke that he was thinking of leaving the
scientific research business to open a filling station on Highway 66.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Merrifield received numerous awards and
honours, including the Royal Society of Chemistry Medal (1987). He served on
the editorial boards of the International Journal of Peptide and Protein
Research and the Journal of Peptide Science.
Bruce Merrifield is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, a biologist, and by
five daughters and a son.
|MERRIFIELD: Robert Bruce Merrifield--d.14/5/2006>USA by "Peter_McCrae" <>|