While predicting who will win a Nobel Prize is famously difficult — the short list is secret, as are the nominators, and documents revealing the juicy details are sealed from public view for 50 years, here are some Nobel-worthy candidates and the life-changing discoveries they have made.
“Convinced of the promise of mRNA therapies despite widespread skepticism, they created a technology that is not only vital in the fight against the coronavirus today, but holds vast promise for future vaccines and treatments for a wide range of diseases including HIV, cancer, autoimmune and genetic diseases,” the Breakthrough Prize said in its announcement.
Complicating matters for the Nobel selection committee, according to the rules laid down by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in 1895, is that a Nobel can only honor up to three people — something that is getting harder given the collaborative nature of much scientific research.
The Breakthrough Prize also recognized Shankar Balasubramanian, David Klenerman and Pascal Mayer for their work on next-generation DNA sequencing technologies.
Before their inventions, re-sequencing a full human genome could take many months and cost millions of dollars. Today it can be completed with 24 hours at the cost of around $600, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation said. This has transformed many fields including biology, ecology, paleoarchaeology, forensics and personalized medicine.
“The Nobel Prize is typically recognizing people who contributed discoveries 20, 30, 40 years ago. In the ’80s and ’90s, in universities there weren’t very many women as senior people — heads of departments, leaders in their field — at that time,” Pendlebury said. “That has changed dramatically in the last 40 years.”
There’s no shortage of potential female science laureates. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a physicist from Northern Ireland, is often mentioned as a potential physics winner for her work on the discovery of pulsars, one of the major astronomical discoveries of the 20th century. In medicine, American geneticist Mary-Claire King discovered the BRCA mutations and their link to breast cancer risk in 1990, confirming an inherited risk of cancer.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology will be announced on Monday October 4, physics on Tuesday and chemistry will be announced on Wednesday, followed by the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and the Prize in Economic Sciences next Monday.
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