Arthur Riggs, one of the developers of recombinant DNA technology, has died, the Washington Post reports. He was 82.
Riggs, who spent 50 years at the City of Hope, worked with Keiichi Itakura, also from City of Hope, and Herbert Boyer, a founder of Genentech, to develop a synthetic gene encoding the hormone somatostatin but found that it was not stable unless combined with a larger protein, the Post writes. It adds that, according to Itakura, that combination was "a critical development." The trio then applied their approach to the more complex hormone insulin.
"We chose insulin because it looked doable, and there was a need," Riggs once said, according to the Post. "At the time, diabetics were being treated with cow insulin because there was no source of human insulin. And cow insulin resulted in a high rate of allergic reactions."
Their recombinant DNA approach is also the foundational basis for monoclonal antibodies, which are used to treat a range of conditions from cancer to COVID-19, the Post adds.
"You cannot overestimate the importance of this seminal work, not simply to people with diabetes, but also in helping to found the field of biotechnology," Peter Dervan from Caltech, where Riggs received his PhD, says in a statement.