In the elevator of Flexner Hall at Rockefeller University in New York City, a hand-lettered sign proudly proclaims:

SOLID-PHASE PEPTIDE SYNTHESIS WAS BORN HERE. Twenty-five years ago, Biochemist R. Bruce Merrifield was riding up to the fourth floor with a colleague when he proposed a new method for creating proteins, the essential components of life. Last week Merrifield, 63, stepped off the same elevator and into the embrace of a laboratory worker who told him that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for that idea. Merrifield thus became the...

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