• Sweden's news in English
 

Karplus, Levitt, Warshel get Nobel chemistry nod

Published: 09 Oct 2013 11:45 GMT+02:00

The announcement was made at the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences at Stockholm University.

The Royal Academy explained in a statement that the laureates "have made it possible to map the mysterious ways of chemistry by using computers", adding that detailed knowledge of chemical processes allows the possibility of optimizing catalysts, drugs and solar cells.

Professor Warshel said he was "extremely well" when reached by phone in Los Angeles, despite the early hours on the US west coast.

"What we have done is to develop a method ... how proteins actually work," he explained. "It's like seeing a watch and wondering how actually it works. In short, what we developed is a way that requires a computer to take the structure of a protein and then to eventually understand how it does what it does."

"If you want to understand how it is happening then you can use it for example to design drugs or in my case to satisfy your curiosity."

The focus on enzymes mean there are drugs on the market today, including HIV medication, that have been developed with the help of the trio's model, said Johan Åqvist, professor of theoretical chemistry and a Royal Academy board member who has worked with Warshel in Los Angeles.

"Molecular size doesn't matter," Åqvist explained about the model that has made it possible to test theories on complex chemical reactions. Asked to summarize in a few words what the laureates had won the prize for, he said, "computers take over chemistry".

"The computational methods allow you to study biochemical processes in details. One problem before was that there wasn't enough computational power to treat complex systems with thousands, or nowadays millions, of atoms," Åqvist told The Local.

Warshel, when he moved from Israel, brought with him knowledge from the computer Golem - one of the early computers that were critical to the field, Åqvist said.

"When chemical reactions happen you break and make new bonds. It can only be treated with quantum mechanics, but if these reactions take place inside a big enzyme, there are thousands of atoms surrounding this little region where things really happens," Åqvist continued.

"The nice idea they had was to treat the surrounding part with classical physics, but this very interesting area with quantum physics," he added. "They are focusing in."

This in essence means researchers can now look at very complex reactions that were previously out of reach - "molecular size doesn't matter," Åqvist said.

Gunnar Karlström at the Swedish Royal Academy told reporters that the laureates "sent away a three-step rocket" - first step when Karplus and Warshel in 1973 devised a method to merge the "quantum and classical worlds" in chemistry. Subsequent research added two more steps to the work that was recognized on Wednesday.

To break it down to its simplest form, the Nobel Prize was awarded for the three chemists' work in using computers to make visible and to understand exactly what's going on during chemical reactions.

Chemical reactions occur at lightning speed, the committee reasoned, with electrons jumping between atomic nucleii so microscopically, that the prying eyes of scientists simply cannot watch.

It was the methods of Karplus, Levitt, and Warshel - first realized back in the seventies - that allowed modern scientists to devise and carry out such experiments on their computers

The three laureates will share a prize sum of 8 million kronor ($1.24 million)

Martin Karplus was born in 1930 in Vienna, Austria, and is a US citizen. He studied at the California Institute of Technology and is Professeur Conventionné at the Université de Strasbourg in France, as well as at Harvard in the United States.

Michael Levitt is a US and British citizen, born 1947 in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at Cambridge University in the UK.

Arieh Warshel is a dual US-Israeli citizen born in 1940 in Kibbutz Sde-Nahum, Israel. He studied at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, and is the distinguished Professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Wednesday's news follows Tuesday's Physics announcement where Peter Higgs and Francois Englert took home the Nobel Prize, and Monday's Medicine Prize which went to two Americans and one German for their research into cell transportation systems.

Follow our live blog of the Nobel week here.

The Local/at/og

Follow The Local on Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Jay Z rebrands Nordic streaming service
Jay Z launching the service. Photo: Brad Barket/TT

Jay Z rebrands Nordic streaming service

Rap mogul Jay Z launched a rebranded music streaming service on Monday with major star backing, after buying the Scandinavian sites Tidal and Wimp and their parent company Aspiro earlier this month. READ  

UN has 'great interest in Sweden' says PM
Sweden's PM Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

UN has 'great interest in Sweden' says PM

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has told reporters in New York that the United Nations appears highly interested in his country, as he lobbies to get the Nordic nation a seat on the UN Security Council. READ  

Immigrants need time to learn Swedish: OECD
A Swedish class for immigrants in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Immigrants need time to learn Swedish: OECD

Sweden needs to do more to help its immigrants and refugees learn Swedish so they can become fully-integrated members of society who hold down jobs, the OECD has argued. READ  

Opinion
Swedish companies must learn from Saudi row
A Swedish workplace. Photo: Suzanne Walström/Image Bank Sweden

Swedish companies must learn from Saudi row

Swedish companies worried about the nation's business links with the Arab world should instead be focussing on their own responsibility to promote and demonstrate ethical behaviour, argues Ruben Brunsveld from the Swedish Network for Business and Human Rights. READ  

Sweden's Volvo to build first car factory in US
Volvo's factory in west Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden's Volvo to build first car factory in US

Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars has announced plans to build its first factory in the United States, 60 years after it started selling cars in the country. READ  

Britain's Ukip demands Swedish TV apology
Ukip leader Nigel Farage pictured last year. Photo: TT

Britain's Ukip demands Swedish TV apology

UPDATED: Sweden's media watchdog has given public broadcaster SVT a rap on the knuckles for labelling Britain's Ukip an "extreme right-wing populist party" and the party has told The Local it now wants a public apology from the broadcaster. READ  

Eight-year-old's 'killer' attacks husband in court
Photo: Yara Alnajjar's uncle returns to court for the appeal case against him. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Eight-year-old's 'killer' attacks husband in court

A woman convicted of the murder of eight-year-old Yara Alnajjar threw herself at her husband, the girl’s uncle, in a Malmö courtroom on Monday at the start of a high-profile appeal. READ  

Sweden keeps ban on spontaneous dancing
Dancing protestors oppose the dance permits on the streets of Stockholm in 2012. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Sweden keeps ban on spontaneous dancing

Spontaneous dancing remains outlawed in Sweden except in venues with special “dance licences” after a majority in parliament voted down a move to free the feet. READ  

Sweden needs lower wages for young: report
OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría (centre) flanked by Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and Trade Minister Mikael Damberg. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden needs lower wages for young: report

Sweden should lower entry-level wages and make teaching more attractive, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recommends in a new economic survey. READ  

The Local investigates
'It was a long journey and some of my friends died'
Princess and Lloyd Justus from Nigeria are seeking asylum along with their baby daughter. Photo: The Local

'It was a long journey and some of my friends died'

A week after the Swedish Migration Board announced it was tripling the maximum number of residents allowed at asylum centres, The Local brings you a special report from inside Märsta, the country's busiest asylum application centre just outside Stockholm, where hundreds of refugees spend their first nights in Sweden each week. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: March 28th
National
Travelling over Easter? Don't miss our guide to rail disruption
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
National
Sweden remembers Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Blog updates

27 March

Celebrating Three Great English Exports In 2015 (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today. In 2015, England..." READ »

 

27 March

Editor’s blog, March 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Europe remains in shock following the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps that killed 150..." READ »

 
 
 
What's on in Sweden: March 26th - April 2nd
Stieg Larsson's partner blasts Millennium trilogy sequel
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Gallery
Princess Estelle celebrates her mother's name day in Stockholm
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Obama's anti-Semitism team heads to Stockholm and Malmö
Gallery
People-watching: March 11th
Technology
How a Swedish app is teaching children to empathize
Swedish grandparents put on disguises to snatch baby
National
Why Sweden may not be as gender equal as you think
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,428
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se