Nobel Prizes announced for Chemistry, Physics and Medicine
The 2020 Nobel Prizes have been announced. The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and prize money of 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1,118,000), courtesy of a bequest left 124 years ago by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
Chemistry: History made
Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer Doudna of the U.S. created history by winning the Chemistry Nobel — the first time a Nobel science prize has gone to a women-only team. The prize was given in the field of genome editing.
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna have discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms with extremely high precision. This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true.
Medicine: Vanquishing the Hep C
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2020 was awarded jointly to US scientists Harvey J. Alter and Charles M. Rice and British researcher Michael Houghton for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.
The Hepatitis C virus was discovered in 1982 by screening millions of DNA samples. The discovery helped in finding a cure for the disease, and effective antiviral drugs are now available. Tests have also been developed to identify blood containing this virus, so that infected blood is not given to any patient.
Physics: Yes, Black Holes exist
Three scientists who helped uncover details about black holes share this year’s Nobel Prize in physics. Roger Penrose works at the University of Oxford in England. Reinhard Genzel works in Garching, Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and at the University of California, Berkeley. Andrea Ghez is at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The winners showed black holes could exist, and then helped demonstrate they actually did. When black holes were first proposed, scientists were not sure that they existed. The idea for them arose out of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Penrose eventually performed mathematical calculations that showed black holes are physically possible. Genzel and Ghez showed that one of these dark objects lurks at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.