• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Karplus, Levitt, Warshel get Nobel chemistry nod

The Local · 9 Oct 2013, 11:45

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.

Story continues below…

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
Joe Biden to arrive in Sweden for refugee talks
Stefan Löfven meets Joe Biden during a visit to Washington in March 2015. Photo: Monica Enqvist/Government Offices of Sweden

US Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in Stockholm on Wednesday evening ahead of talks with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven that are expected to focus on migration and refugees.

Boy who attacked goalkeeper 'bet thousands' on game
Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

A 17-year-old boy who stormed the pitch and attacked a goalkeeper in Sweden’s top division earlier this month has claimed he had placed a large bet on the result.

Furious fireman lashes out at Malmö car arsonists
Firefighters battle a blaze in Malmö earlier this month. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A fireman in Malmö has won praise across Sweden for calling out arsonists on the “bullshit” reasons behind a spate of car fires in the southern city.

See Stockholm spectacularly change through the seasons
A bright autumn day in Stockholm. Photo: Delphine Fortin

In order to help her long-distance relationship, one Stockholm-based blogger produced a fascinating visual illustration of the Swedish capital throughout the seasons.

Groped woman had 'gigantic breasts' - player cleared
File image (2010) of Björklöven players in a huddle. Photo: public domain

A former prosector said the reasoning was "absurd" and "illegitimate".

Sweden’s high-speed trains the least punctual in Europe
One of Sweden's high-speed trains during a delay in Stockholm. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

It seems the Swedes are not quite so efficient after all.

Refugee crisis
Asylum seekers leaving Sweden in record numbers
The Swedish Migration Agency offices in Solna. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

The large number of asylum seekers leaving Sweden in 2016 coincides with a dramatic fall in the number seeking asylum in the country compared to last year.

Long-term damage seen from brain injuries: Swedish study
A model of the human brain. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

A study carried out in Sweden suggests that youths who suffer traumatic brain injuries are more likely to experience long-term psychological and social problems.

The Local List
30 Swedish movies you must see before you die
Thomas Hedegran and Rolf Lassgård in thriller The Hunters. Photo: Photo: Per Pettersson/TT

Film buff Christian Ekvall picks out 30 definitive Swedish movies you must see to understand the soul of the country's cinema.

Malmö police catch car arson suspect in the act
Another car blaze earlier this month. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Malmö police have arrested a man after they caught him setting a vehicle alight in the Rosengård district as the city's spate of summer car fires continued.

Sponsored Article
Malmö to host global skateboard championship
National
Experts: Gothenburg grenade blast is 'part of a cycle of violence'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
Property of the week: Karlsborg
National
Why Sweden could change its criticised detention laws
Blog updates

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 

22 July

After the horror, carry on regardless (Globally Local) »

"This time last week, we were just digesting the horror of the Nice killings, in which…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
The mystique of Asia - in the middle of Stockholm
National
Watch this dog's reaction when she tries Swedish fermented herring
Sponsored Article
Why you should learn to trade (and just how easy it is)
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th-21st
National
How to find student housing in Sweden
National
VIDEO: Swede films first Northern Lights of the season
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Gallery
People-watching: August 17th
Sponsored Article
'Sweden's Lauryn Hill' touches the country's musical soul
Society
Swedish population nears ten million
The Local Voices
This Syrian artist found love in a Swedish library
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
National
Sex pigs halt traffic after laser attack on Pokémon teens. Only in Sweden.
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Gallery
Property of the week: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm
Society
Drunk knight detained in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Five easy ways to travel more often
National
Can you solve this Swede's strange Star Wars mystery?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th-14th
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Swedes cheer first snow of the season
Gallery
People-watching: August 10th
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
The Local Voices
Syrian presenter: Swedish media should make more shows in Arabic
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Travel
Watch the meteor shower in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
How to survive a crayfish party
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
IN PICS: Your Sweden summer snaps
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
National
Why are fewer foreign graduates staying in Sweden to work?
Culture
This Swedish street artist's incredible murals will make your jaw drop
The Local Voices
Gabriel mastered Swedish and got accepted onto a medicine degree in just 7 months
3,373
jobs available