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At Cornell

Yielding Practical Benefits

Cornell Professor James B. Sumner

Kraig AdlerProfessor Xingen Lei, Animal Science, works on an enzyme called phytase. Like all enzymes, phytase is in a class of organic compounds called proteins. Nowadays, everyone knows that enzymes are proteins, and we take it for granted. However, this important fact was not discovered until 1926 by a Cornell professor. The work of Professor Lei and, indeed, all work on critical organic catalysts rest upon this fundamental knowledge. Since enzymes are proteins, they are composed of amino acids and have chemical properties like other proteins. Knowledge for the public interest must be based on sound fundamental knowledge such as this. A captivating example is the remarkable story of Cornell Professor James B. Sumner and his lifelong quest to discover the organic nature of enzymes—one of the great discoveries of modern biology.


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