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Nobel Laureate To Speak At Wayne State On Molecular Key To Life

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Discussing the molecular machine that synthesizes the energy necessary to sustain life, 1997 Nobel Chemistry Laureate Professor Sir John E. Walker will be the featured speaker for Wayne State University’s 2010 Ahmed H. Zewail Gold Medal Award and Lecture.

The event will take place Tuesday, Oct. 26, in the Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center Auditorium, located at 5050 Anthony Wayne Drive, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Walker received his Nobel Award, along with American chemist Paul D. Boyer, for elucidating the mechanism that produces adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the molecule which is the energy currency for most metabolic processes in living organisms.

His talk, “The mosaic structure of ATP synthase,” will discuss the state of the research on the structure and mechanics of the highly complex molecular machine known as ATP synthase, which is instrumental to the synthesis of ATP. In order to provide energy to sustain life, the human body produces a quantity of ATP by this mechanism every day that is approximately equal to its body weight.

Walker received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, in 1964. He began studying peptide antibiotics with Edward Abraham at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford, in 1965 and received his Ph.D. in 1969.

He worked abroad from 1969 to 1971 at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin, and from 1971 to 1974 in France, was supported by fellowships from North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Molecular Biology Organization, first at the French National Centre for Scientific Research at Gif-sur-Yvette, and then at the Institut Pasteur.

In 1974, he joined the Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry Division at the Medical Research Council. In the late 1970s, he began the work that would lead to his discoveries on ATP synthase.

Walker is currently the director of the MRC’s Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge, and a fellow of Sidney Sussex College. Walker and Boyer share the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Danish chemist Jens C. Skou.

More at www.research.wayne.edu.

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