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Philip Leder Dies

Philip Leder, who helped uncover how DNA codes for proteins and later studied the genetic roots of cancer, has died, the Washington Post reports. He was 85.

In the 1960s, Leder was a postdoc in Marshall Nirenberg's lab at the National Institutes of Health where he became part of the race to tease out how genes encoded amino acids, the Scientist notes. The Nirenberg-Leder experiments using radioactive tags on amino acids helped determine that they bound triplet RNA sequences, which enabled the researchers to decipher the amino acid codon sequences, it adds. Nirenberg shared the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Cornell University's Robert Holley and the University of Wisconsin's Har Gobind Khorana for "for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis."

Later in his career, Leder found that certain genes could cause cancer when altered, the Post adds, noting that he also developed the OncoMouse.

"No one had known at the molecular level what the genes were," Cynthia Casson Morton from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital tells the Post. "It really ushered in a period of discovery. Phil was definitely one of the people leading the field in understanding the role of genetics in cancer."