World News – United States – Nobel 2020 season opens with medicine prize


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October 5, 2020

by Marc Préel

Advances in health will be honored on Monday when the 2020 Nobel season kicks off with the Medicine Prize, as the world battles the worst pandemic in a century

The announcement of the price of medicine, scheduled for 11:30 am (09:30 GMT), will be followed by the price of physics on Tuesday and chemistry on Wednesday

The Most Watched Awards – for Literature and Peace – will follow Thursday and Friday, while the Saving Prize will end on Monday 12 October

“The pandemic is a serious crisis for humanity, but it illustrates the importance of science,” said Lars Heikensten, director of the Nobel Foundation

No prize is expected to be awarded this year for work directly related to the novel coronavirus, as Nobel-winning research typically takes several years to verify

The award committees are « in no way influenced by what was going on in the world at the time, » Erling Norrby, former permanent secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences, told AFP. Sweden which awards scientific prizes

« It takes a long time before a price can mature, I would say at least 10 years before you can fully understand the impact » of a discovery, said Norrby, himself a virologist

The work of the various award committees is shrouded in secrecy and the names of the nominees are withheld for 50 years, leading to rampant speculation

Swedish public radio SR and the country’s largest daily Dagens Nyheter have both suggested that Monday’s medicine prize could be awarded to French-born Australian Jacques Miller and Max Cooper of the United States for their discoveries of T cells and B cells in the 1960s, leading to breakthroughs in cancer and virus research

Or the nod might go to Lebanese-born American geneticist Huda Zoghbi for her discovery of a genetic mutation that leads to Rett syndrome, a brain disorder, said SR and Dagens Nyheter

Dagens Nyheter also tipped American Mary-Claire King, who discovered the BRCA1 gene responsible for an inherited form of breast cancer, and researchers who worked on a cure for hepatitis C , Ralf Bartenschlager from Germany and Americans Charles Rice and Michael Sofia – a trio also received the Lasker Prize in 2016

Two frequently mentioned names are Emmanuelle Charpentier from France and Jennifer Doudna from the United States, for their gene-editing technique known as the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA capture tool, a type of genetic « scissors » used to cut out a mutated gene in a human embryo and replace it with a corrected version

Chinese-American Feng Zhang also claims to have discovered the technique, which could be eligible for the medicine and chemistry prize

Others also mentioned include immunologists Marc Feldmann from Australia and British-Indian researcher Ravinder Maini, for his work on rheumatoid arthritis, and American oncologist Dennis Slamon for breast cancer research and drug treatment Herceptin

For Tuesday’s physics prize, US astrophysicists Shep Doeleman and Heino Falcke could win for work that led to the first directly observed image of a black hole in April 2019, according to Dagens Nyheter

SR meanwhile, saw it go to the American mathematician Peter Shor who paved the way for today’s research on quantum computers, or to the Frenchman Alain Aspect for his work on quantum entanglement

For chemistry, SR predicted the honor could go to Christopher Murray for his work on semiconductor nanocrystals or American gene sequencing pioneer Leroy Hood, while Dagens Nyheter gave Americans Harry Gray , Richard Holm and Stephen Lippard work in the field of bio-organism chemistry

According to Nobel Prize observers, the peace prize could be awarded to press freedom champions such as Reporters Without Borders or the Committee to Protect Journalists, climate activists such as Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement, or an organization like the World Food Program, the World Health Organization or Transparency International

Literary circles in Stockholm saw Canadian poet Anne Carson and American-Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid as strong candidates for the Literature Prize, while Canada’s Margaret Atwood and American authors Marilynn Robinson and Joyce Carol Oates have been making the Nobel buzz for years

Kenya Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Hungarian Peter Nadas, Albanian Ismael Kadare, Korean Ko Un and French Michel Houellebecq are also frequently mentioned, while British novelist Hilary Mantel is a recent addition.

© 2020 AFP

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Medicine, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

News from the world – United States – The 2020 Nobel season opens with a medicine prize



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