Photo: Malcolm Johnson
A series of events at the University of Sheffield, held throughout October and November 2015, celebrated the achievements and legacy of Sir Hans Krebs, of one of Sheffield’s pioneering Nobel Prize winners. Balbir Singh Dance Company contributed to the events in series of interpretative pieces and pop up performances. But who was Sir Hans Krebs?

Krebs was born in Hildesheim in northern Germany in 1900. He followed in his father’s footsteps and studied medicine before deciding his future lay in research rather than medical practice.

Krebs, who was Jewish, left Germany in 1933 after he was dismissed from his post at the University of Freiburg following Hitler’s rise to power. He initially worked at the University of Cambridge before he took up a post at the University of Sheffield in 1935 where he worked for 19 years.

He remained at Sheffield until 1954. While there, he worked on metabolic pathways and discovered three key series of metabolic reactions that are cycles. This makes them much more efficient and means that the cycles can be used catalytically to generate energy and biochemicals for the cell.

The first cycle he discovered was the urea cycle, also known as the ornithine cycle, and is used in the body to remove waste ammonia by converting it to urea. It was the first biochemical cycle to be discovered.

His most famous discovery was the citric acid cycle, also known as the Krebs cycle. This is the set of reactions used to generate most of our energy from sugars; it also produces precursors used in biosynthesis. In animals it takes place in a specialised organelle called the mitochondrion. The third cycle was the glyoxylate cycle, a variant of the Krebs cycle found in plants and fungi.

Krebs received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1953 for his discovery of the Krebs cycle, and was knighted in 1958. He was the first head of the Department of Biochemistry at Sheffield, now part of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

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