In Memoriam: Professor Peter Reichard (1925–2018)

Publicerat 2018-07-04 15:19. Uppdaterat 2018-07-05 08:31

Peter Reichard, professor emeritus at Karolinska Institutet (KI), died on June 18, 2018, 93 years old.

Peter ReichardPeter Reichard was born 1925 in the small city of Wiener Neustadt in Austria. The family came to Sweden 1939 and Reichard started studying medicine at KI in 1944. Through his interest in chemistry he became a pupil of Einar Hammarsten, the legendary professor in Medical Chemistry at KI, who was a pioneer in the chemistry of nucleic acids. This became the theme of Peter Reichard’s PhD thesis, which he defended at the age of 24 in 1949.

He continued research and also completed his medical studies with an MD in 1951 and went to USA for a postdoctoral studies supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. In America he worked with among others, the Nobel Prize laureate Arthur Kornberg at Stanford.

The scientific contributions of Peter Reichard on DNA synthesis, both replication and repair, is of fundamental importance for many areas, particularly cancer and its treatment.

From 1961–1963 Peter Reichard was professor of Medical Chemistry in Uppsala and from 1964 he replaced Erik Jorpes as professor and head of the Medical Chemistry Division II at KI. In 1971 he took up the position as professor of biochemistry after Hugo Theorell and he also became a Director of the Medical Nobel Institute for Biochemistry. He retired in 1991 but continued his research. After his first wife Dagmar had died in 1990, he married Vera Bianchi, a collaborator and professor at Padua University in Italy, where they also lived and worked in later years.

Nucleic acids became Peter Reichard’s field of research to which he has made a series of outstanding contributions over a long time. His mentor Einar Hammarsten had a profound influence on Peter Reichard’s development into a scientist and dedication to science. After a long struggle he discovered, purified and characterized ribonucleotide reductase from the bacterium Escherichia coli. Ribonucleotide reductase is the allosteric enzyme controlling DNA synthesis by making the four building blocks, called deoxyribonucleotides in all organisms with DNA as the genetic material. He also discovered thioredoxin and thioredoxin reductase from E. coli as a hydrogen donor for the ribonucleotide reductase reaction. The ribonucleotide reductase enzyme, which is present in all living organisms and most viruses, contains a free radical, which is required for the chemical reaction.

The scientific contributions of Peter Reichard on DNA synthesis, both replication and repair, is of fundamental importance for many areas, particularly cancer and its treatment. He trained a large group of coworkers as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows of how to conduct science.

With his strong personality and relentless demand for high quality in research, he was a natural leader in the academic world. 

Peter Reichard spent several sabbatical leaves in the laboratory of Professor Arthur Kornberg at Stanford and he had a broad network of scientific colleagues in Sweden and all over the world. He received many scientific prizes and awards including being elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in 1977, the National Academy of Sciences USA in 1980, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and he was awarded the large Nordic Eric K. Fernström prize in Medical Research for his discovery and work on ribonucleotide reductase.

Peter Reichard was deeply involved in the work of the Nobel Committee and the Nobel Assembly at KI for over 20 years. He was the chairman of the Nobel Committee and presented Nobel Prize laureate speeches at four occasions. With his strong personality and relentless demand for high quality in research he was a natural leader in the academic world.

Many in Karolinska Institutet and over the whole world miss a dear colleague and friend.

Arne Holmgren, Senior Professor at Karolinska Institutet

Professor