Kary Banks Mullis, Nobel Prize-winning chemist, was born on December 28, 1944, in Lenoir, North Carolina. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1966. He earned a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972 and lectured in biochemistry there until 1973.
That year, Dr. Mullis became a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric cardiology at the University of Kansas Medical School, with an emphasis on the areas of angiotensin and pulmonary vascular physiology. In 1977 he began two years of postdoctoral work in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Mullis joined the Cetus Corporation in Emeryville, California, as a DNA chemist in 1979.
During his seven years there, he conducted research on oligonucleotide synthesis and invented the polymerase chain reaction. In 1986, he was named director of molecular biology at Xytronyx, Inc. in San Diego, where his work was concentrated on DNA technology and photochemistry. In 1987 began consulting on nucleic acid chemistry for more than a dozen corporations, including Angenics, Cytometrics, Eastman Kodak, Abbott Labs, Milligen/Biosearch, and Specialty Laboratories.
Dr. Mullis received a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993 for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The process, which Dr. Mullis conceptualized in 1983, is hailed as one of the monumental scientific techniques of the twentieth century. A method of amplifying DNA, PCR multiplies a single, microscopic strand of genetic material billions of times within hours.
The process has multiple applications in medicine, genetics, biotechnology, and forensics. Because of its ability to extract DNA from fossils, PCR is, in reality, the basis of a new scientific discipline, paleobiology. Dr. Mullis has authored several major patents. His patented inventions include PCR technology and UV-sensitive plastic that changes color in response to light.
His most recent patent application covers a revolutionary approach to instantly mobilize the immune system to neutralize invading pathogens and toxins, leading to the formation of his latest venture, Altermune Technologies, of which he is the Chief Scientific Advisor. Dr. Mullis was awarded the Japan Prize in 1993 for the PCR invention. It is one of international science’s most prestigious awards.