Wolf Prize Laureate in Medicine 1987
Affiliation at the time of the award:
Glaxo Inc., USA
“for the invention and development of affinity chromatography and its applications to biomedical sciences”.
Affinity chromatography is a novel technique which was conceived by Cuatrecasas and Wilchek and has become a powerful tool for the isolation and purification of many biologically important molecules. Few if any other new techniques have so markedly and rapidly affected the growth of biomedical sciences.
The principle of affinity chromatography is based on the covalent attachment to agarose beads of molecules that can selectively bind and thereby remove specific constituents from a mixture. This permits novel approaches to the study of enzyme mechanisms and the properties of cell surfaces, and enables separations of numerous other biological constituents to be carried out. This technique has also been employed in clinical diagnosis and therapeutics.
Professor Pedro Cuatrecasas has done much to develop and perfect the methodology of affinity chromatography. He himself, has elegantly applied the technique to study a number of enzymes and receptors. For example, he has used affinity to purify insulin receptors and estrogen receptors. Prof. Cuatrecasas has used the purified receptors to determine their structure, and to produce antibodies with which he studied their biosynthesis, regulation, function, and role in disease states (i.e. diabetes in the case of insulin receptors and breast cancer in the case of estrogen receptors).