Jerard Hurwitz

Jerard Hurwitz
Institutions Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Alma mater
Thesis The metabolism of vitamin b₆ derivatives (1953)
Known for RNA polymerase discovery
Influenced Frank Uhlmann[1][2]
Notable awards Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry

Jerard Hurwitz (born 1928) is an American biochemist who co-discovered RNA polymerase in 1960 along with Sam Weiss, Audrey Stevens, and James Bonner. He currently works at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York studying DNA replication in eukaryotes and its control.[3]


Hurwitz attended Indiana University, earning a B.A. in Chemistry in 1949. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1953 from Case Western Reserve University.


Hurwitz joined the microbiology department at Washington University in 1956 and began investigating the incorporation of ribonucleotides into RNA. Two years later, he moved back to New York and became an Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, where he continued to study RNA synthesis.

In 1955, Marianne Grunberg-Manago and Severo Ochoa had reported the isolation of an enzyme that catalyzed the synthesis of RNA. This enzyme was at first hoped to be responsible for the synthesis of RNA in cells, and Ochoa's discovery was honored with a Nobel prize in 1959. However, it was later realized that Ochoa's enzyme did not use DNA to synthesize RNA but instead formed arbitrary sequences, and later this enzyme was found to degrade RNA in cells. Undeterred by Ochoa's findings, Hurwitz searched for a cellular RNA polymerase on his own and in 1960 he reported the isolation of RNA polymerase activity from Escherichia coli extracts.[4] Remarkably, several other research groups reported similar discoveries at roughly the same time (Samuel B. Weiss, Audrey Stevens, and James Bonner). Hurwitz continued his research on RNA synthesis, and in 1962 Hurwitz, John J. Furth, and Monika Anders reported the purification of RNA polymerase.[5]

Awards and honours

Hurwitz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been honored with the Eli Lilly Award in Biological Chemistry, the Institut Pasteur Hazen Lectureship, and the New York Academy of Science's Louis and Bert Freeman Foundation Prize for Research in Biochemistry.


  1. Uhlmann, F; Gibbs, E; Cai, J; O'Donnell, M; Hurwitz, J (1997). "Identification of regions within the four small subunits of human replication factor C required for complex formation and DNA replication". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 272 (15): 10065–71. PMID 9092550.
  2. Uhlmann, F. (2007). "What is your assay for sister-chromatid cohesion?". The EMBO Journal. 26 (22): 4609–4618. doi:10.1038/sj.emboj.7601898. PMC 2080813Freely accessible. PMID 17962808.
  3. The Discovery and Isolation of RNA Polymerase by Jerard Hurwitz
  4. Hurwitz, J (2005). "The discovery of RNA polymerase". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 280 (52): 42477–85. doi:10.1074/jbc.X500006200. PMID 16230341.
  5. Furth, J. J.; Hurwitz, J; Anders, M (1962). "The role of deoxyribonucleic acid in ribonucleic acid synthesis. I. The purification and properties of ribonucleic acid polymerase". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 237: 2611–9. PMID 13895983.

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