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Ernst Boris Chain

From Academic Kids

Sir Ernst Boris Chain (June 19, 1906August 12, 1979) was a German-born British biochemist, and a 1945 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on penicillin.

Chain was born in Berlin. In 1930, he received his degree in chemistry from Friedrich Wilhelm University. After the Nazis came to power, Chain knew that he, being a Jew, would no longer be safe in Germany. He left Germany in 1933 and moved to England.

He began working on phospholipids at Cambridge University under the direction of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins. In 1935, he accepted a job at Oxford University as a lecturer in pathology. During this time he worked on a range of research topics, including snake venoms, tumour metabolism, lysozymes, and biochemistry techniques.

In 1939, he partnered with Howard Florey to investigate natural antibacterial agents produced by microorganisms. This led him and Florey to revisit the work of Alexander Fleming, who had described penicillin nine years previously. Chain and Florey went on to discover penicillin's theraputic action and its chemical composition. It was Chain who worked out how to isolate and concentrate penicillin. He also theorized the structure of penicillin, which was confirmed by x-ray crystallography done by Dorothy Hodgkin. For this research, Chain, Florey, and Fleming received the Nobel Prize in 1945.

After World War II, Chain moved to Rome, Italy to work at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita (Superior Institute of Health). He returned to Britain in 1964 as head of the biochemistry department at Imperial College in London.

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