The 2019 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded on Monday to two Americans and a British scientist for their discoveries in how the body’s cells sense and react to oxygen levels.
Their work has paved the way for new strategies to fight anemia, cancer and other diseases, the Nobel Committee of the Karolinska Institute said in awarding the prize.
The winners are Dr William G Kaelin Jr of Harvard University, Dr Gregg L Semenza of Johns Hopkins University and Peter J Ratcliffe at the Francis Crick Institute in Britain.
They will share equally the 9 million kronor ($918,000) cash award. It is the 110th prize in the category that has been awarded since 1901.
In announcing the prize, the Nobel Committee said the work by the three laureates has “greatly expanded our knowledge of how physiological response makes life possible”. It said Semenza, Ratcliffe and Kaelin found “the molecular switch for how to adapt” when oxygen levels in the body vary, noting that the most fundamental job for cells is to convert oxygen to food and that cells and tissues constantly experience changes in oxygen availability.
Thomas Perlmann, the secretary of the Nobel Committee at the Karolinska Institute, said he was able to reach all three laureates by phone on Monday. But he only got Kaelin via his sister, who gave him two phone numbers, and the first one was a wrong number.
“He was really happy,” Perlmann told a news conference.
The announcement kicked off Nobel week. The Nobel Physics prize is handed out on Tuesday and the following day is the chemistry prize.
This year’s double-header Literature Prizes — one each for 2018 and 2019 — will be awarded on Thursday and the Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.
The economics prize will be awarded on October 14. AP