When Dr. Aziz Sancar stepped to the podium to speak about winning the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (along with Tomas Lindahl of the Francis Crick Institute and Paul Modrich of Duke University), he credited his success to his many collaborators, and to UNC’s supportive environment.
“I am very grateful to all of you for working so hard,” he said, “and to the University of North Carolina.”
In 1982, UNC was the only place that offered positions to him and his wife Gwen, also a biochemistry researcher who worked with Sancar, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the UNC School of Medicine with a joint appointment in Biology.
The prize honors Sancar’s work mapping the cellular mechanisms that underlie DNA repair, which occurs every minute due to environmental factors. When this repair system fails, people exposed to sunlight develop skin cancer.
Sancar is UNC’s second Nobel laureate. In 2007, Oliver Smithies, Weatherspoon Eminent Distinguished Professorship of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.