- Category : 1906-births
- Type : PE
- Profile : 5/1 - Heretical / Investigator
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Education 1
German-born British biochemist, and a 1945 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on penicillin.
In 1930, he received his degree in chemistry from Friedrich Wilhelm University. After the Nazis came to power, Chain understood that, being Jewish, he would no longer be safe in Germany. He left Germany and moved to England, arriving on 2 April 1933 with £10 in his pocket. Geneticist and physiologist J.B.S. Haldane helped him obtain a position at University College Hospital, London.
After a couple of months he was accepted as a PhD student at Cambridge University, where he began working on phospholipids under the direction of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins. In 1935, he accepted a job at Oxford University as a lecturer in pathology. During this time he worked on a range of research topics, including snake venoms, tumour metabolism, lysozymes, and biochemistry techniques. Chain was naturalised as a British subject in 1939.
In 1939, he joined Howard Florey to investigate natural antibacterial agents produced by microorganisms. This led him and Florey to revisit the work of Alexander Fleming, who had described penicillin nine years earlier. Chain and Florey went on to discover penicillin's therapeutic action and its chemical composition. Chain and Florey discovered how to isolate and concentrate the germ-killing agent in penicillin. Along with Edward Abraham he was also involved in theorising the beta-lactam structure of penicillin in 1942, which was confirmed by X-ray crystallography done by Dorothy Hodgkin in 1945. For this research, Chain, Florey, and Fleming received the Nobel Prize in 1945.
On 17 March 1948 Chain was appointed a fellow by the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1969.
He was a lifelong friend of Professor Albert Neuberger, whom he met in Berlin in the 1930s.
In 1948, he married Anne Beloff-Chain, sister of Renee Soskin, Max Beloff, John Beloff and Nora Beloff, and a biochemist of significant standing herself.
Chain died on 12 August 1979 at age 73 at the Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar, Ireland.