Frank Young, a scientist whose early discoveries helped make genetic cloning possible and who later served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration during the early years of the AIDS crisis, died Nov. 24 at a hospital in Wilmington, N.C. He was 88.

The cause was lymphoma, said a son, Jonathan Young.

Young, who had two doctoral degrees, had a scientific and academic career before coming to Washington in 1984 to lead the FDA under President Ronald Reagan.

During the 1970s, he made advances in the genetic study of bacteria that ultimately helped make the scientific practice of cloning possible. With a colleague at the University of Rochester in New York, Young discovered an enzyme — called a “restriction enzyme” — that could be used, in effect, as genetic scissors to alter the genetic makeup of DNA.

In 1975, he and his Rochester colleague, Gary Wilson, published a paper that was widely cited in the fields of genetics and biotechnology. The restriction enzyme, Wilson said in an interview, “would allow you to put DNA together at precise places. That was the beginning of cloning.”

Friday, December 06, 2019