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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nobel Prize: 2008?

Chad Orzel at Uncertain Principles has started a contest to guess this year's Noble Prize winners [Guess the Nobels, Win a Prize]. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will be announced next Monday (Oct. 6) and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced two days later on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

Read the list of blogger nominees from last year and the year before on The Daily Transcript. I'm sticking with Ernest McCulloch and James Till (see photo) for the discovery of stem cells.

Other possibilities include Harry Noller, Tom Steitz (+ other) for the structure of the ribosome and Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider & Jack Szostak for telomeres.

It would be a scandal if Francis Collins and Crag Ventor won for the human genome.


  1. Tony Pawson is certainly possible. A couple of other "local" possibilities:

    John Dick and Peter Dirks, for their discovery of cancer stem cells. I see John once or twice a week in the elevators;

    Tak Mak, for the discovery of the T-cell receptor;

    Lap-Chee Tsui (not in Toronto anymore) for the cloning of the CFTR gene.

    Unlikely to be McCulloch and Till; it's been too long. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the award go to Collins and Venter (and I've picked them); while the human genome sequencing was a huge collaboration, those guys really spearheaded it, and it really was a massive undertaking, though more a triumph of technology rather than of discovery. Nevertheless, I see that as a crowning achievement of molecular biology.

    What about Sir David Lane, for the discovery of p53?

  2. Speaking as a Karolinska local I have an inkling that Bob Weinberg might be in with a shout this year. He was just here a few months back (managing to meet nearly everyone in the Institute in a four day visit) and he is thought very highly by many members of the medicine panel.

  3. Do the structures of the ribosome really merit a Nobel? Challenging work yes but the results do not necessarily rise to the level of a Nobel IMHO.

    If a Steitz is to get one, what about Joan?

    As for the human genome sequencing, I vote no. PCR and sequencing already won Nobel prizes. If you want a nobel related to genomics how about for BLAST?

  4. I vote Blackburn, Greider, and Szostak because I really like telomeres.

  5. I prefer to do it by odds.

    Kim Nasmyth: 10:1

    Botstein and Lander (or someone else for the human genome): 5:1

    Rothman/Schekman: 4:1

    Cancer Genetics/Tumor Suppressors (Lane, Weinberg, many possibilities): 3:1

    Falkow: 50:1

    Noller, Yonath: 6:1 (they'd probably be for chemistry through)

    Schreiber and Crabtree for chemical biology: 12:1

    Massague (TGF, etc): 15:1

    Brown, Stryer, Foder (microarray): 5:1

    Venter will never win it because the nobel committee hates privatization of science.

  6. Pondering Fool ponders,

    Do the structures of the ribosome really merit a Nobel?

    Yes. Protein synthesis is one of the fundamental processes found in all living cells. Ribosomes are found in all living cells.

    Challenging work yes but the results do not necessarily rise to the level of a Nobel IMHO.

    I don't think you understand that several decades of work went into solving the structure. And I don't think you understand how much help the structure has been to understanding the role of catalytic RNA and the mechanism of protein synthesis.

    As far as I'm concerned, understanding how proteins are made from an RNA template is a lot more important than learning how to integrate genes into a specific spot in the mouse genome (2007) or re-discovering that small RNAs can act as regulators (2006), or working out the structure of RNA polymerase (2006), or discovering that Helicobacter causes ulcers (2005).

  7. Many worthy nominees, but the Med. and Physiology prize committee has a history of mixing it up between more clinical and basic science recipients. The past two years have been more of a basic science flavor. So, I would not be surprised by a choice that is more clinical this year.

    How about tamoxifen usage to prevent breast cancer recurrence (You're so timely, Larry). As to who, how about Vernon Jordan? And maybe someone involved in estrogen receptor identification, such as Elwood Jenson? And maybe J.A. Gustafsson (a local pick for the Swedes), or maybe your friend Yamamoto for the relationship to hormone action?

    Bill Chaney

  8. If you're going to mention Collins and Venter, you should at mention John Sulston. No offense, but including only the USA side could seem a little one-sided. (And possibly even political to some.)

    John Sulston's group did a lot of the early pilot work demonstrating that large-scale sequencing was a "do-able" thing and worked on the C. elegans genome also. He already has a Nobel Prize for the developmental biology aspects of the C. elegans work (Shared with Sydney Brenner and Robert Horvitz in 2002).

    But regardless, if you're mentioning key players in the HGP, I personally wouldn't be leaving John out of the discussion.

  9. Opps, it seems you can't edit these posts! 'at' should read 'at least', of course. My apologies.

  10. Very interesting discussion.

    I agree, the politics behind Collins and Venter would be huge, so they probably wont win (though the human genome sequencing is worthy of a Nobel).

    Frankly, I'm shocked that David Lane hasn't won for p53. It has to be the most studied molecule of all time, and has huge ramifications for medicine.

  11. p53 is surely important enough to be considered for Nobel prize. The problem, though, is there are too many people that can potentially share the prize. There are probably 3 or 4 candidates for p53 alone. But more importantly, if you are going to give the prize for a tumor suppressor gene, you should also give a credit to the discovery of Rb. But it isn't easy to decide who should get credit for Rb.

    Bob Weinberg is often credited for the discovery of Rb, but he admits that he didn't play a very big role in this and placed himself as the 4th author of the 7-author paper. But can they leave out someone like Weinberg, who made many important contributions to cancer biology? Dryja, the last author of the Rb paper should get it. But how about the first author, Friend, who was Weinberg's postdoc at the time? How about Knudson, whose hypothesis was important, but wasn't involved in the discovery of the gene itself?

    Choosing Nobel Prize winners is not entirely scientific.

  12. I think Victor Ambros and Gary Ruvkun (micro RNAs) are a big likelihood. Ronald Evans is another possibility in my opinion.

  13. what about Tim Mitchison and Marc Kirschner for dynamic instability?