Nobel Laureate &
Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA)
Hamilton Smith shared a Nobel Prize in 1978 for the discovery of restriction enzymes, a kind of molecular scissors used by bacteria to cut up threatening viruses and by biologists as an essential tool for manipulating DNA. In his current position, he is working to design and use microbes for carbon sequestration, clean energy production, and other applications.
Dr. Smith was recruited to Johns Hopkins University in 1967, where he remained for thirty years. He was named the American Cancer Society Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Molecular Biology and Genetics in 1998.
In 1968, Dr. Smith began using the bacterium, Haemophilus influenzae Rd as a model system for the study of genetic recombination. Soon he was able to purify the restriction enzyme and determined that it cleaved a specific sequence of six bases in DNA. The work from his and colleague Daniel Nathan's labs led in the early 1970's to the recombinant DNA and cloning era. For 20 years, Dr. Smith's laboratory continued to study H. influenzae and discovered more than a dozen DNA transformation genes in the bacterium. They cloned the first restriction system genes.
In 1993, Dr. Smith joined the scientific advisory council of the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). There he and Craig Venter were the first to decode the genome of a bacterium, proving the feasibility of rapidly determining the sequence of many organisms. As senior director of DNA resources at the biotech company Celera Genomics, Dr. Smith helped lead an effort to sequence the human genome, which was completed in 2000.
Dr. Smith did undergraduate work at the University of Illinois and the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins.