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George Hitchings

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George Hitchings and Gertrude Elion in 1988.
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George Herbert Hitchings (April 18, 1905–February 27, 1998) was an American scientist and researcher credited with making major breakthroughs in rational drug design and chemotherapy. For his work on drug treatment he was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir James Black and Gertrude Elion.[1] His work was characterized as a major breakthrough in crafting new drugs. Conventional methods had been clumsy and slow, often revolving around trial-and-error methods. Hitchings and Elion studied key differences between human cells and disease-causing pathogenic cells. Their research lead to a new the method in creating drugs more specifically-designed to combat harmful pathogens.

Early life and career[edit]

Hitchings grew up in Washington state and studied chemistry at the University of Washington graduating cum laude before acquiring his master's degree there and then moving on to Harvard.[2] Hitchings' father, a shipbuilder and community leader in Hoquiam, died when Hitchings was only 12, after an illness that sparked Hitchings' interest in medicine. When Hitchings was salutatorian at Seattle's Franklin High School, his teacher gave him a biography of Louis Pasteur, who became a role model as a humanitarian and scientist. In 1942 he joined Wellcome Research Laboratories (now part of GlaxoSmithKline) as Head of the Biochemistry Department.[3]


Over a span of nearly 40 years, Hitchings worked with Elion. Together they designed a variety of new drugs that achieved their effects by interfering with the replication or other vital functions of specific pathogens (disease-causing agents) or cells.[4] Their work helped make organ transplants possible, amongst many other things.[5]

The line of inquiry we had begun in the 1940s [also] yielded new drug therapies for malaria (pyrimethamine), leukemia (6-mercaptopurine and thioguanine), gout (allopurinol), organ transplantation (azathioprine) and bacterial infections (co-trimoxazole (trimethoprim)). The new knowledge contributed by our studies pointed the way for investigations that led to major antiviral drugs for herpes infections (acyclovir) and AIDS (zidovudine).[6]

See also[edit]


  1. "George Hitchings". Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  2. "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1988". Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  3. Hammond, Alexander C. R. "Heroes of Progress, Pt. 33: Hitchings and Elion". Human Progress. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  4. George Herbert Hitchings Encyclopedia Brittanica.
  5. Leduff, Charlie (1998-03-02). "George Hitchings, 92, Winner Of Nobel in Medicine, Is Dead". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  6. "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1988". Retrieved 2020-01-18.