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Dr. George Smith Accepts His Nobel Prize in Stockholm

University of Missouri Professor Emeritus George Smith has received the university’s first-ever Nobel Prize. In a ceremony Monday, he was recognized by the Swedish royal family.

“I mean, of course I’m pleased. Who wouldn’t be pleased? And to see my family like this, who wouldn't be pleased to see people happy like that?” Smith said.

The Nobel Prizes are awarded each year for outstanding contributions to humanity in fields like chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine and economics. Earlier Monday, in a separate ceremony, the Nobel Peace Prize was conferred in Oslo, Norway. 

You can watch the ceremony here.

Dr. Smith was recognized as a co-laureate of the chemistry prize for his work developing a technique called “phage display,” which takes advantage of the unique properties of certain viruses to help people understand and potentially develop treatments for medical ailments that may have been impossible with traditional techniques.

In his lecture Saturday, Dr. Smith said he viewed this work as a group effort. You can watch the lecture here.

“Actually, I think it may be doubtful that phage display was an invention. I know that it looks like that from the outside, but from the inside, from my point of view, phage display was a series of small, incremental advances from the knowledge that ... my science community had made available to me, that are the nutrients of my science community,” Smith said.

But Smith’s wife Marjorie Sable, herself a professor emerita at the MU School of Social Work, says Smith’s peers aren’t the only ones worthy of credit.

“Well he is an extremely hard worker. He would always go back into the lab and work till late at night or go to bed early and wake up at the crack of dawn and go in …. And he's just very precise,” Sable said.

Others in Dr. Smith’s field, including co-laureate Gregory Winter, have already expanded on his techniques and ideas, helping to create drugs like popular rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease drug adalimumab, better known as Humira. And during his talk Saturday, Winter said more than 60 other drugs based on phage display are still in clinical testing.

After this honor, though, Smith says that his eyes are on his future and his legacy.

Copyright 2020 KBIA. To see more, visit KBIA.

Dr. George Smith displays his Nobel Prize on December 10, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden
Photo Courtesy of Bram Sable-Smith /
Dr. George Smith displays his Nobel Prize on December 10, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden

Photo Courtesy of Bram Sable-Smith /

Nathan Lawrence comes to KBIA as a recent graduate of Lawrence University (no relation), where he studied English, Film Studies and Gender/Ethnic Studies. When not at KBIA, he works to hone his skills in photography, filmmaking and data journalism.
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