Draft - JP - Dr. Michael Smith


Smith came to BC from England in 1956 as a post-doctoral fellow. Working in the lab of future Nobel laureate Har Gobind Khorana, the young organic chemist developed a passion for molecular biology, with a particular interest in synthesizing oligonucleotides (short strings of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA). By 1966, Smith’s talent and tireless work had earned him an appointment as a professor in the UBC Department of Biochemistry, which would become his permanent academic home. In the mid 1970s, Smith began work on the procedure that would be his greatest achievement. Site-directed mutagenesis is a genetic engineering technique based on the notion that targeted mutations may be induced at specific sites in a genome. Using synthetic oligonucleotides produced by his lab, Dr. Smith developed and refined a method for selectively engineering mutations in genes. This technique has become one of the foundations of biotechnology and has given rise to new diagnostic tests and treatments for genetic diseases.


In the late 1990s, Smith helped realize the dream of creating Canada’s first genomic research centre devoted to the study of cancer. His steadfast support for enhancing BC’s research potential led to the creation of new facilities and resources that have resulted in breakthroughs and enabled the training of talented young scientists.


Through his longstanding commitment to supporting emerging scientific talent, Smith helped to build BC into a hub of world-class health research, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, now known as Michael Smith Health Research BC, has continued to advance this research across the province.