Nobel Prize winner Baruch “Barry” Blumberg, who served as the first director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., died of an apparent heart attack April 5 while attending a conference at Ames. He was 85.

Blumberg led the NASA Astrobiology Institute from 1999 to 2002. He won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976 for identifying the Hepatitis B virus.

“The NASA Astrobiology Institute is a pure discovery endeavor,” Blumberg told Space News in a 1999 interview. “We’re entering a period of science similar to when the telescope and microscope first became available and we were able to see things we had never seen before.”

“The world has lost a great man,” former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin said in a statement. “Barry saved lives through his research on the Hepatitis B virus. He also inspired a whole generation of people worldwide through his work in building the NASA Astrobiology Institute.