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Hitchings, Nobel Prize Winner, Dies in Chapel Hill

Posted February 28, 1998

— Nobel Prize-winner George Hitchings, 92, is being saluted as a man who "knew how to combine his brilliance with a fierce dedication to his science," which "revolutionized the world of drug exploration and design." Hitchings died Friday at his Chapel Hill home of complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Hitching's work with co-researcher Gertrude Elion led to the first effective treatments for childhood leukemia and made the first kidney transplants possible. He and Elion shared the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1988.

Their 40-year collaboration led to development of treatments for malaria, leukemia, gout, organ transplant complications and bacterial infections, as well as to creation of anti-viral drugs for herpes infections and the AIDS virus.

Hitchings also had profound interest in people's well-being beyond medical concerns. He began the Greater Triangle Community Foundation in 1983 with a $1,000 donation. Five years later, he gave all his Nobel Prize proceeds to the foundation. Today, the organization provides a wide range of community services across the Triangle -- and has assets of $50 million.

Hitchings retired as research scientist at Burroughs Wellcome Co., the pharmaceutical firm that became part of Glaxo Wellcome.

In a prepared release, Robert A. Ingram, Glaxo Wellcome chief executive officer, hailed Hitching's achievements. Hitchings and Elion worked to fight disease by finding substitutes for the building blocks of DNA that could disable the disease while sparing the patient. In speaking with laymen, Hitchings used to refer to this process informally as getting the disease organism to "go for the rubber doughnut."

Hitchings earned bachelor's and master's of science degrees from the University of Washington, and his doctorate from Harvard. Honorary doctorates were awarded by the University of Michigan, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Emory, New York Medical College and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He was inducted into the prestigious National Academy of Science in 1977 and he received the annual Award of the American Cancer Society in 1978.

He is survived by his widow, Joyce Shaver, M.D., two children, three stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Triangle Community Foundation, PO Box 128343, Research Triangle Park, NC., 27709, and earmarked for the George and Beverly Hitchings Endowment or the Shaver-Hitchings Fund. Contributions may also be made to the Central North Carolina Chapter of the American Red Cross, 4737 University Drive, Durham, NC 27707.


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