Paul Modrich
Paul L. Modrich, Nobel Laureate in chemistry in Stockholm December 2015
Paul Lawrence Modrich

(1946-06-13) June 13, 1946 (age 77)
Alma materMIT
Stanford University (PhD)
Known forClarification of cellular resistance to carcinogens
Scientific career
FieldsDNA mismatch repair
ThesisStructure, mechanism and biological role of E. coli DNA ligase (1973)
Doctoral advisorRobert Lehman

Paul Lawrence Modrich (born June 13, 1946) is an American biochemist, James B. Duke Professor of Biochemistry at Duke University and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is known for his research on DNA mismatch repair.[1] Modrich received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015, jointly with Aziz Sancar and Tomas Lindahl.[2][3]

Early life and education

Paul Modrich presenting himself

Modrich was born on June 13, 1946, in Raton, New Mexico to Laurence Modrich and Margaret McTurk.[4] He has a younger brother Dave.[5] His father was a biology teacher and coach for basketball, football and tennis at Raton High School where he graduated in 1964.[5] Modrich is of Croatian, Montenegrin, German and Scottish (Gaelic)[6] origin. His paternal grandfather, of Croatian descent,[7] is probably from the small village of Modrići near Zadar,[8] and grandmother of Montenegrin descent, both immigrated to the United States from coastal Croatia in the late 19th century.[4][9] His maternal family is of mixed German and Scotch-Irish descent.[4] Modrich married fellow scientist Vickers Burdett in 1980.[10]

Modrich obtained a B.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1968 and subsequently a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in 1973. He continued his research as a postdoc in the lab of Charles C. Richardson at Harvard Medical School for a year (1973–1974).[4]


Modrich became an assistant professor at the chemistry department of University of California, Berkeley in 1974.[4] He joined Duke University's faculty in 1976 and has been a Howard Hughes Investigator since 1995. He works primarily on strand-directed mismatch repair. His lab demonstrated how DNA mismatch repair serves as a copyeditor to prevent errors from DNA polymerase. Matthew Meselson previously proposed the existence of recognition of mismatches. Modrich performed biochemical experiments to study mismatch repair in E. coli.[11] They later searched for proteins associated with mismatch repair in humans.[1]

Honors and awards

Honors and awards received by Modrich include:[12]

Modrich is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.


  1. ^ a b "Paul Modrich Awarded 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry". HHMI. HHMI. October 7, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  2. ^ Broad, William J. (October 7, 2015). "Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for DNA Studies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  3. ^ Staff (October 7, 2015). "THE NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY 2015 – DNA repair – providing chemical stability for life" (PDF). Nobel Prize. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Paul Modrich – Biographical". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Simonich, Milan (October 8, 2015). "Childhood in Raton helped shape life of Nobel winner in chemistry". The Taos News. Retrieved October 9, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Last name: McTurk
  7. ^ "Plenkovic welcomed an American Nobel Prize winner of Croatian origin who is responsible for one of the most important discoveries in medicine history: This was Modrich's first visit to the homeland of his ancestors". International Society for Applied Biological Sciences. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  8. ^ "Večer S Nobelovcima – Nobel Spirit 2 (ISABS 2019)". YouTube. Hrvatska radiotelevizija & Dragan Primorac. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved June 19, 2019. wife and I, we visited the village yesterday where my grandparent, grandfather may have been born, Modrići, I believe it is called
  9. ^ Nenad Jarić Dauenhauer (October 26, 2015). "Nobelovac Modrich za tportal: Djed mi je bio Hrvat" [Nobel laureate Modrich for tportal: My grandfather was a Croat]. T-Hrvatski Telekom. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  10. ^ "For Paul Modrich, frenzy and failures yield truths". News & Observer. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  11. ^ Su, SS; Modrich, P (July 1986). "Escherichia coli mutS-encoded protein binds to mismatched DNA base pairs". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 83 (14): 5057–61. Bibcode:1986PNAS...83.5057S. doi:10.1073/pnas.83.14.5057. PMC 323889. PMID 3014530.
  12. ^ "Paul L. Modrich (PhD '73)". Stanford Medicine Alumni Association. Retrieved November 30, 2018.