US, British researchers win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygen

Published: Oct 07, 2019, 16:01 IST | AFP | Stockholm

Their research has "paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases"

Nobel Assembly members (L-R) Patrik Ernfors, Anna Wedell and Randall Johnson sit in front of a screen displaying the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (L-R) Gregg Semenza, Peter Ratcliffe and William Kaelin after their names were announced during a press conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Pic/AFP
Nobel Assembly members (L-R) Patrik Ernfors, Anna Wedell and Randall Johnson sit in front of a screen displaying the winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (L-R) Gregg Semenza, Peter Ratcliffe and William Kaelin after their names were announced during a press conference at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Pic/AFP

Stockholm: US researchers William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza and Britain's Peter Ratcliffe on Monday shared the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability, the Nobel Assembly said.

"They established the basis for our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function," the jury said. Their research has "paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases."

The jury said the trio had identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen, which is central to a large number of diseases. "Intense ongoing efforts in academic laboratories and pharmaceutical companies are now focused on developing drugs that can interfere with different disease states by either activating, or blocking, the oxygen-sensing machinery," the jury said. Kaelin works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US, while Semenza is director of the Vascular Research Program at the John Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering.

Ratcliffe is director of clinical research at the Francis Crick Institute in London, and director of the Target Discovery Institute in Oxford. The three will share the Nobel prize sum of nine million Swedish kronor (about USD 914,000).

They will receive their prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

Last year, the honour went to immunologists James Allison of the US and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, for figuring out how to release the immune system's brakes to allow it to attack cancer cells more efficiently.

The winners of this year's Physics Prize will be revealed on Tuesday, followed by the Chemistry Prize on Wednesday. The Literature Prize will be announced on Thursday, with two laureates to be crowned after a sexual harassment scandal forced the Swedish Academy to postpone the 2018 award, for the first time in 70 years.

The Peace Prize will follow on Friday, with bookies predicting a win for Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on betting sites such as Ladbrokes. The Economics Prize will wrap up the Nobel prize season on Monday, October 14.

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