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Harry Gray Wins Wolf Prize In Chemistry

by Mitch Jacoby
January 26, 2004 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 82, ISSUE 4

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Credit: PHOTO BY RUDY BAUM
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Credit: PHOTO BY RUDY BAUM

The 2004 Wolf Foundation Prize in chemistry has been awarded to Harry B. Gray, the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and founding director of the Beckman Institute at California Institute of Technology. Gray is being recognized for pioneering work in bioinorganic chemistry--specifically, for contributions to unraveling novel principles of structure and long-range electron-transfer processes in proteins.

Among other accomplishments, Gray is credited with using specially modified proteins to measure the rate of electron transfer between redox centers positioned at fixed distances from one another in the proteins. He and his coworkers demonstrated that electron transfer can occur at significant rates even between centers separated by some 20 Å.

Electron-transfer reactions in proteins provide the basis for energy production in cells of all living organisms. Yet "until Gray's work, little was known about the chemical factors that govern electron transfer in biological systems," the award panel notes.

"It's really great to be recognized for work that was done with students and very close friends," Gray tells C&EN. "We've been collaborating on this work for years, and it has been a lot of fun. The recognition is icing on the cake for work that has been so enjoyable."

The $100,000 prize will be presented by Israel's president at a special ceremony at the Israeli Parliament in May.

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