Aziz Sancar is a biochemist and molecular biologist that focuses on DNA repair and cell cycles. Sancar is the first Muslim to be awarded the Nobel Prize in the field of molecular biology in 2015. Aziz was born in the Savur district of Mardin Province to an Arabic-speaking family on September 8, 1946. He graduated Istanbul University in 1969 with a M.D. and later UT Dallas with his Ph.D. in 1977. Aziz Sancar is married to Gwen Boles Sancar and is the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His wife is also a Professor of Biochemistry at UNC.
Aziz Sancar won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for his work in mapping DNA repair. He mapped cellular mechanisms that underlie DNA repair which respond to damage caused by outside forces. His groundbreaking work has produced the crucial knowledge to develop greater treatments against DNA damage that usually results in cancer. Sancar has also discovered how cisplatin, the common cancer drug, damage DNA of cancer cells. After receiving the award, Sancar said, “We’ve been working hard for many years and I think we’ve made significant contributions to our field. It’s been a great team effort.” He also proceeded to say, “With this map, we can now say to a fellow scientist, ‘tell us the gene you’re interested in or any spot on the genome, and we’ll tell you how it is repaired.’” “Out of six billion base pairs, pick out a spot and we’ll tell you how it is repaired.” This is a tremendous and well-deserved honor for Dr. Aziz Sancar.