LONDON (Reuters) - Fred Sanger, a double Nobel Prize-winning British biochemist who pioneered research into the human genome, has died at the age of 95, the University of Cambridge said on Wednesday.
Sanger, who once described himself as "just a chap who messed about in his lab", worked with colleagues to develop a rapid method of DNA sequencing - a way to "read DNA" - which became the forerunner for the work on mapping the human genome.
He won his first Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1958 for work on determining the structure of insulin and the second 22 years later for his work on DNA, the material that carries all the information about how living things look and function.
Only four people in history have been awarded the Nobel Prize twice.
Craig Venter, a synthetic biology pioneer and founder of the J. Craig Venter Institute in the United States, said Sanger was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century.
"He twice changed the direction of the scientific world, first with the sequencing of insulin...and second with his then new method of sequencing DNA," he said in a statement responding to news of Sanger's death. "His contributions will always be remembered."
Colin Blakemore, a professor of neuroscience and philosophy and former chief executive of Britain's Medical Research Council said Sanger was "a real hero" of 20th-century British science, adding it was "impossible to exaggerate" the impact of his work on modern biomedical science.
"His invention of the two critical technical advances - for sequencing proteins and nucleic acids - opened up the fields of molecular biology, genetics and genomics," he said.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by Patrick Graham; Editing by Larry King)