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Jens Christian Skou Dies

Biochemist Jens Christian Skou, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in chemistry, has died, the Washington Post reports. He was 99.

Skou, then at Aarhus University, won the Nobel for his discovery in 1957 of the enzyme sodium-potassium-stimulated adenosine triphosphatase and the sodium-potassium pump, the Post adds. The sodium-potassium pump helps keep the balance of sodium and potassium ions within cells and is a key part of how nerve signals are sent by moving ions across membranes. He won alongside the University of California, Los Angeles' Paul Boyer and MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology's John Walker who studied the synthesis of ATP.

"When I claimed that an enzyme could transport ions, people said I was talking nonsense. I would never have been given the funding to investigate this under the current system," Skou said in 2008, according to Aarhus.

Skou trained in surgery during the German occupation of Denmark and later became interested in local anesthetics and their effects, which led him to uncover the sodium-potassium pump — mostly out of curiosity, the Post adds.

"Right up until the end, Jens Christian Skou was very preoccupied with the conditions that today's research is subject to," says Lars Bo Nielsen, the dean of the health faculty at Aarhus in a statement. "His tireless struggle to tell politicians and the outside world about the importance of non-targeted funding for research has had a huge impact on the research environment."