The Nobel prize in the field of Medicine, the first in the list of prestigious awards given by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, has been shared by three scientists — William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza — "for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability".
The trio identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen and discovered how cells can sense and adapt to changing oxygen availability.
According to a Nobel Prize awarding society statement, the three laureates' discoveries have paved the way for promising new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and many other diseases.
Born in 1957 in New York, William G. Kaelin Jr is affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, as well as, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, where he has his own laboratory that researches on hereditary forms of cancer including Von Hillel-Lindau disease.
A math and chemistry graduate, as well as, an MD from Duke University, the physician-scientist likes solving puzzles. In a post-award interview, he said he sought to understand the basis of phenomena he observed in patients.
The laboratory of the scientist, who is also awarded the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 2016, studies tumor suppressor proteins."Our story is really one of trying to generate knowledge and understand how things work," the scientist explained.
Second Laureate and nephrologist Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, born in 1954 in Lancashire in the United Kingdom, says: "We make knowledge. That's what I do."
The scientist, affiliated at the time of the award with the University of Oxford in the UK and the Francis Crick Institute in London, stressed how challenging it was to know what information would be useful and the dangers of trying to direct research towards particular, predetermined goals.
An alma mater of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, Mr. Ratcliffe has been awarded Fellow of the Royal Society and Albert Lasker prize.
A professor of pediatrics and radiation oncology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Dr. Gregg Leonard Semenza was born in 1956 in New York and awarded with Lasker Award in 2016 like his fellow scientists.
As an undergraduate at Harvard University, the scientist studied medical genetics and mapped genes on chromosome 21. He sequenced genes linked to the recessive genetic disorder beta-thalassemia during his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at John Hopkins University.
The scientist in an interview following the announcement of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on October 7 emphasized the "unexpected journey research takes you on", as well as, the need for researchers to cross the boundary between the clinic and the bench.
As many as 219 individuals, as of now, have been awarded the prize conferred by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden in a total 110 Medicine Prizes.
Emil Adolf von Behring, the first such recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicines in 1901, was awarded the honor for "his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria".