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Work in macromolecules wins Nobel prize

Oct. 9, 2002 at 10:08 AM   |   Comments

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- John B. Fenn from the United States, Koichi Tanaka of Japan and Kurt Wuthrich of Switzerland have been selected to receive the 2002 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday.

The academy, which gave half the award to Wuthrich while Fenn and Tanaka will split the other half, cited the scientists' work with biological macromolecules -- the large, highly complicated molecules of life such as proteins. The Nobel Prize recognizes the research as having revolutionized the development of new drugs and some early cancer diagnoses.

The prize will be presented Dec. 10 in Stockholm. It carries a cash award of about $1.1 million.

Wuthrich, associated with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., developed a process to determine the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules. The 64-year-old chemist's work has made it possible to study proteins in solution, which is similar to the normal protein situation in a living cell.

Fenn, 85 years old and Research Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University; and Tanaka, a 43-year-old research and development engineer at Shimadzu Corp., in Kyoto, Japan; developed methods to analyze the nature and characteristics of biological macromolecules via a technique called mass spectrometry.

While the academy noted the research's value in the development of new pharmaceuticals, the work has also led to advances in early diagnosis of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Last year, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was also split between three scientists. Half of the award went to K. Barry Sharpless of the United States; while William Knowles, of the United States; and Ryoji Noyori, of Japan; claimed the other half. The men were cited for their work with catalysts that show that it is possible to make materials with new properties. The revelations have had affects in antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and heart medicines.

On Monday, it was announced that Sydney Brenner and John E. Sulston of the United Kingdom, and H. Robert Horvitz of the United States would be given the 2002 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work on the life of a cell. This year's prize for physics, announced Tuesday, will be given to Riccardo Giacconi, an Italian-born American, Raymond Davis, Jr., of the United States, and Masatoshi Koshiba of Japan. Their work resulted in the development of two new fields of study in astronomy.

Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith, both from the United States, will share this year's Nobel prize in economics. Kahneman, with Princeton University, was cited for integrating psychology and economics in helping to explain human decision-making that may not agree with standard economic theory. Smith, with George Mason University, developed experimental methods that have been key to empirical economic analysis.

Still to be announced this week are two awards, including the Nobel prize for Literature, which is set for a Thursday release. The announcements will conclude Friday with the Norwegian Nobel Committee revealing the winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

Topics: Ryoji Noyori
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