Nobel Medicine Prize Kicks Off Week of Awards

by VR Sreeraman on Oct 5 2009 11:20 AM

 Nobel Medicine Prize Kicks Off Week of Awards
The winner of the Nobel Medicine Prize is to be revealed on Monday, kicking off a week of prestigious award announcements including the two that are perhaps most anticipated, Literature and Peace.
As always, speculation is rife for those honours, to be announced on Thursday and Friday respectively, though no obvious candidates have emerged amid the annual buzz. Related article: Nobel guessing game at fever pitch.

First out is the Medicine Prize, with the laureate to be revealed on Monday around 11:30 am (0930 GMT) by the Nobel jury at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute.

The award committees for the various prizes never reveal the nominees, leaving the door wide open for frenzied speculation in the weeks prior to the announcements.

Some names that have circulated in the Swedish and international media for the Medicine Prize this year are Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak of the United States. Fact file: The Nobel Prizes in numbers.

The trio won the 2006 Lasker Prize for predicting and discovering an enzyme called telomerase, which helps chromosomes in cells stay eternally young and which has drawn interest from researchers studying its role in everything from ageing to cancer.

Their work borders however on chemistry and they could also be honoured with the Nobel Chemistry Prize, to be announced on Wednesday.

Others mentioned for Monday's distinction include US scientist Margaret Liu for her work on DNA vaccines which help an individual's immune system fight disease, as well as Shinya Yamanaka of Japan, who won the 2009 Lasker Prize for stem cell research that involves reprogramming adult cells to behave as stem cells.Related article: Last will and testament of Alfred Nobel

Last year, the Nobel Medicine Prize went to France's Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, who shared one half of the award, for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.

Harald zur Hausen of Germany won the other half for research that went against the then-current dogma to claim that a virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), causes cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women.

The announcement of the Physics Prize laureates will be made on Tuesday and the Chemistry Prize on Wednesday.

The winner of the Literature Prize will be disclosed on Thursday, and literary circles have suggested it could go to a poet for the first time since 1996 or a Spanish-language author for the first time since 1990.

Sweden's Tomas Transtroemer, Syria's Adonis and South Korea's Ko Un have thus been mentioned as possible winners among poets, while Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa, often cited in Nobel speculation, could finally clinch the distinction.

Last year, French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio took the honours.

For the Peace Prize, to be revealed on Friday and the only Nobel prize to be announced in Oslo, the field appears to be wide open.

The prize committee said last week it had still not made its choice among the record 205 candidates this year, and would meet twice more before Friday to make its selection.

Observers in Norway said however they expected the committee to return to a classical interpretation of peace, after widening the scope of the prize in recent years to include the fields of environmentalism and the fight against climate change.

Efforts to wipe out cluster bombs, which cause particular damage to civilians, could be honoured, with possible laureates seen as the Cluster Munitions Coalition or the humanitarian organisation Handicap International.

Last year, the award went to Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland and conflict troubleshooter.

The Economics Prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 12.

This year's laureates will receive 10 million Swedish kronor (1.42 million dollars, 980,000 euros) which can be split between up to three winners per prize.


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