Andrew Jonathan Nok, a professor of biochemistry and Kaduna state commissioner of education, science and technology, died in the early hours of Tuesday at the age of 55.
TheCable understands that the world-renowned scientist had been down with an undisclosed ailment and was on admission at an Abuja hospital until his discharge last week.
He was dean in the faculty of science at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, before he was appointed commissioner of health and human services by Nasir El-Rufai, the state governor, in July 2015. Nok was later moved to the education ministry following a cabinet reshuffle.
In 2009, he was among five candidates that applied for the position of vice-chancellor of ABU. Although he reportedly came first with a score of 81 per cent, he was denied the position allegedly on religious and ethnic sentiments.
He was a fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and Lady Davis Fellows.
In 2010, he received the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award (NNOM) in the science category.
His name was spelt as “Knock” by a primary school teacher in the controversial competency test recently conducted by the state government.
He was reputed as the first scientist in the world to discover the gene responsible for an enzyme which causes sleeping sickness (trypanosoma).
The research breakthrough helped in forming the baseline for developing DNA-based vaccines against against the disease which affects 60 million people and animals, mainly in rural parts of east, west and central Africa.
Nok was a visiting professor at Yale University while working on the development of the vaccines against trypanosoma.
“I am happy that we will finally help to millions of people and animals from this disease. It took many years but we finally did it and happy the final result,” he said at the time.
He got the NLNG prize for science in 2009 for the seminal work.
He was born on February 11, 1962 in Nok village in Jaba local government area of Kaduna state and schooled at LEA Primary School, Kaunda, and Government Secondary School, Kafanchan.
In 1979, he was admitted into Ahmadu Bello University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1983, master’s degree in 1988 and doctorate degree in 1993.