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Three to split Nobel chemistry prize

David Landes · 7 Oct 2009, 14:18

Published: 07 Oct 2009 14:18 GMT+02:00

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The prize will be split three ways between UK-based chemist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz of the United States, and Ada E. Yonath of Israel "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday.

Found within cells, ribosomes use the information found in DNA molecules to produce proteins which play vital roles in the chemistry of living organisms.

Any of the thousands of different proteins created by ribosomes, from haemoglobin to insulin, affect and control the chemical processes which create and sustain life.

This year’s three Nobel chemistry prize winners have all created 3D models showing how various antibiotics bind to the ribosome.

Through their models, each winner has shown what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level, using a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome.

The enhanced understanding of the ribosome's inner-workings achieved through the winners’ models has shown scientists how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome, thus aiding in the development of new antibiotics.

Ramakrishnan, a US citizen, was born in India in 1952 and earned a PhD in physics from Ohio University in the United States. He is currently a senior scientist at Cambridge University's MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

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Steitz was born in Wisconsin in 1940, earning a PhD in molecular biology and biochemistry from Harvard University. He now works as a professor at Yale University.

Yonath was born in Jerusalem in 1939 and received a PhD in X-ray Crystallography from the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she is now a professor of structural biology.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:29 October 7, 2009 by Mesost
How's the Swedish press gonna avoid publishing that an Israeli won something?
13:51 October 7, 2009 by sherkovic
guys with 'beards' winning noble prizes? Isn't the beard sign of fanatism and religious extremism?...ahem ahem or perhaps some religious fanatics been awarded Noble prizes?
14:31 October 7, 2009 by peropaco
Congrats to them all.
15:42 October 7, 2009 by Kaethar
@Mesost: Why would this be a problem?
15:52 October 7, 2009 by ofdesign
Bravo to all the winners! A special bravo goes out to the Israeli scientist. Her victory symbolizes the beauty of the peaceful and enlightened people of a small nation who aspire to serve humanity through science, technology, the arts, and assisting others while being surrounded by cultures of hatred and primitivism. What an inspiration to the world!
16:52 October 7, 2009 by mkvgtired
I am sure the American has traveled outside of the country before, so he can hardly be considered an American. As for the Israeli, I am sure she is just researching different ways to preserve the stolen organs she is trying to ship overseas. All joking aside thank you to all the scientists whos research benefits EVERYONE. It is good to know that the Nobel laureates are not as prejudiced as the general Swedish population and the Swedish media.
19:19 October 7, 2009 by boby
@ Kaethar

It is a problem as Sweden and especially the Swedish media is controlled by anti-israel anti-jewish islamofacshists
19:27 October 7, 2009 by hopingagainsthope
mkvgtired: I could become addicted to your humor ! Please keep it up!

I tried to imagine the other day what Sweden would be like if Alf. Nobel had not bestowed on his country this pontifical platform from which it has become accustomed to issuing opinions and blessings from on high about everything from the sciences to literature and so much in between. Would it be more real-world? humble? Less narcissistic? Less racist? Who would pay any attention at all if not for the prizes? Imagine.
22:00 October 7, 2009 by bettan1
Well " , hopingagainsthope", I'd have to say we would'nt have had to endure the political games that go into the political correctness process of what is required of all the graveling prize striving hopefuls according to the hypocritical standards for getting one that presently exist.

Can you imagine a real life non-political entiy doing what it's supposed to do and refusing to give a hideous terrorist like Yasir Arafat a stupid bogus Nobel Peace prize ???
22:56 October 7, 2009 by Kaethar
@mkvgtired: You're pathetic.

@boby: Lol. I think I'll disagree. :)
22:57 October 7, 2009 by Iraniboy
@boby and Mesost

I can understand that Sweden's liberalism values and respect for other beliefs is something hard to swallow for you especially if you haven't lived in Sweden. Fascism lays with those who do not acceptdissent opinions. We can find a lot of them in current Israeli and Iranian government and a bunch of them in some European countries too. In Sweden they are in absolute minority.
23:04 October 7, 2009 by Kaethar
And yes, I realise that was ad hominem but I don't feel like responding critically to such nonsense. In either case the fact that the Council gave this award to an Israeli and the fact that all major newspapers had it as a headline in fact proves your hypotheses wrong. So there you go. :)
23:16 October 7, 2009 by boby
@ Iraniboy

LOL. liberalism my arse. Swedish government closed the SD site for publishing the muhamed cartoon. In sweden there is freedom of speach of you are anti Israel or anti American or plain antisematic. But if you are for Israel or for America, then you are likely to ge fired from your job (see the guy from migrationsverket) or to be attacked in the streets by mobs (see the Jewish manifestation in Malmo stormed by islamofachists).

Sweden is the where hypocracy is at its best.
23:23 October 7, 2009 by Iraniboy
@ boby

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with your arse but anyway...being in a job i.e. migrationsverket, school, doctor...needs some qualifications. In Sweden being Pro-Israeli and Anti-Palestinian is totally OK but when most of your customers are Palestinians or people like them then you're obvioulsy not qualified for that job. You cannot offer service to those you hate, can you? The same thing applies for a blind person who apply to be a teacher at school. Is it possible?
01:33 October 8, 2009 by honorable
Congratulations to Ada E. Yonath (Israel) and to my Yale professor Tom Steitz.

5 Israelis have obtained Nobel prizes in this century (Kahneman economy 2002, Aumann economy 2005, Ciechanover chemistry 2005, Hersko, chemistry 2005, Yonath, chemistry 2009) : as many as the Germans and almost as many as the French (6 Nobels) and the Japanese (7 Nobels). But France has 10 times the israeli population and Japon has 20 times the israeli population; and both have no wars and Palestinians to deal with!
02:54 October 8, 2009 by Unpaidpiper
@bettan1: you ARE aware that the peace price is decided on by an all-NORWEGIAN jury, right? Right?

Where do all you folks get this weird notion that the privatly funded Nobel awards has anything at all to do with Swedish gouvernment or Swedish politics anyway? The connection is about the same as the influence that the White House has on who gets to win an Oscar or a Tony.

(ok, sure, the king is MC at the award ceremony, but that's only because they couldn't afford somebody famous. The king also does the Polar awards, as well as weddings and bar mitzwas. Just be sure to book him well in advance and keep an open bar.)
03:18 October 8, 2009 by mkvgtired
Kaethar, I'm glad you think it is pathetic that is what I was going for. It is about as pathetic as the anti-American rants that start on these boards who's subject has nothing to do with America. Ditto for Israel. See the article about the Danish/Swedish decision to close the bridge to Copenhagen (granted the article is loosely about America, but not American policy). Or the Swedish military mishap when they bombed the wrong house, how long did it take that thread to become a typical The Local American bash?

Boby, "In sweden there is freedom of speech of you are anti Israel or anti American or plain antisematic. But if you are for Israel or for America, then you are likely to ge fired from your job (see the guy from migrationsverket) or to be attacked in the streets by mobs (see the Jewish manifestation in Malmo stormed by islamofachists)." Very true, but I think that is most of Europe. Look at Geert Wilders. He was not allowed into the UK, and charges were pressed against him by the Dutch government. Very scary to see Western values such as freedom of speech eroded right before our very eyes. The scariest part is many people are applauding the government's measures to squash descent. I am reminded of a quote by Ben Franklin, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

I have to give the paper credit for actually publishing the cartoon. I was very disappointed at the American media's refusal. None would have been shut down, and yet almost none published it. I dont know which is worse, having the rights and not using them, or getting punished for speaking out. I would say the former.
07:27 October 8, 2009 by Iraniboy

It's ridicolous that you're fed up with criticism of governments (like US, Israel) but you support Gilbert and his follower for their cause. Politcians go for their interests.They lie. They may attack other countries and kill millions of innocent people in 21th century! (like those two examples you made!) But "way of life" is a personal issue. What Gilbert and his followers are supporting is to force Muslims and maybe Jews and Christians next time to live as he says. This is absolute fascism.
07:31 October 8, 2009 by honorable
9 Israelis have won the Nobel prize so far. 9 muslims have won the Nobel prize so far. This looks balanced until you consider that there were no Israelis between 1901 and 1947. Ah, did I mention also that there might be more muslims (like... 200 times more) in the world than Israelis?

The purpose here is not to disparage muslims, but to congratulate Israelis on their achievements despite the fact that their neighbors and their geographic location force them to have other things than Nobel thoughts on their minds. And to remind Israeli bashers that Israel, despite being at war since it was born again, has received more Nobel prizes than China or Spain.

07:57 October 8, 2009 by boby
@ mkvgtired

you are so right. The liberals destroyed europe and commited ethnic cleansing against the original europeans.

The liberals made it wrong to be religeous, wrong to be proud of your country and flag, wrong to follow your traditions and heritage, wrong to try and preserve the values your ancestors have kept for so long.

That is why Islam is taking over europe. its coming into a vacumme created by liberals consumed with self hate to their own people and traditions.
09:26 October 8, 2009 by Rick Methven
Comments on this story absolutely disgust me and I am sure would disgust the recipients of the Nobel prize for chemistry. The prize has NOT been awarded to an Israeli, an American or an Indian, It has been awarded to 3 scientists for their contributions to OUR ( All the people on the planet) understanding about how cells go about using bits of DNA to form the blueprints for living organisms.

Posters here are using it like little kids in the school yard - " My house is better than your house" , " My daddy will beat your Daddy".

These three scientists are citizens of the world who did their research for the benefit of ALL mankind and have now been recognised. Nationality, Ethnicity or Religion has absolutely nothing to do with the choice of the winners of the prize.

Please do not drag these 3 scientists into your rabid tit for tat ranting on Muslims, Jews, Fascism, liberalism etc etc.
10:29 October 8, 2009 by boby
@ Rick Methven

You can ignore the facts as much as you want. The academic world is politicized a long time ago. If you do not know it, many countries in Europe call for an academic boycot on Israel.
11:09 October 8, 2009 by Rick Methven

what FACTS? give me irrefutable FACTS (not your usual propaganda) that many countries many countries in Europe call for an academic boycot on Israel.
11:30 October 8, 2009 by boby
Do a google with 'academic boycott israel'

UK is ofcourse leading. Sorry... should I say Englandstan?
13:55 October 8, 2009 by honorable
Rick: if there was not so much Israel bashing in the world and so many antizionist outbursts on this planet, I would not have written the facts which seem to disturb you. I presented these facts to say something: let us have the decency to show some elementary respect for countries that perform very well in what has been rightfully called "humanity's real olympics".

In other words, let us learn to love those who countribute so much to humanity, without hating those who contribute less, and, on the contrary, stimulate those who presently contribute less towards the noble goals which are rewarded by Nobel prizes.

Nobel prizes should teach respect for the individuals who earn them as well as the countries and the cultures that give birth to them. Nobel prizes do not appear in a vacuum.

There are effectively calls for an academic boycott of Israel in Canada!!! And there are, in many canadian and american universities, a week-long antisemitic and antizionist frenzy called the "Israel apratheid week". Every year! Not to mention an antiisraeli conference at York University last june making the promotion of the disappearance of Israel. A conference subsidized by the Human Sciences Research Council to boot!! Disgusting. One has to do something against these blatant deviations of normal discourse. Hence my earlier comments above.
14:41 October 8, 2009 by ghostwriter

If you're going to debate the validity of the nobel prize in chemistry, then you need to debate chemistry.

You guys are talking about palestine and israel.
14:55 October 8, 2009 by honorable
Congratulations to those who were not rewarded because the prize is limited to a maximum of 3 people: Peter B. Moore (Yale) and Harry F. Noller (Santa Cruz). I think that the committe may actually have hesitated between these possibilities:

Ramakrishan, Steitz, Noller;

Ramakrishnan, Steitz, Moore;

Ramakrishan, Steitz, Yonath.

If it was possible to allow 4 recipients to the Nobel prize, the committe might have hesitated between:

Ramakrishan, Steitz, Yonath, Noller

Ramakrishan, Steitz, Yonath, Moore.

It will be interesting to see what Nature and Science think of the matter. What is sure: each of the 3 recipients are fully deserving of the prize. Yonath was definitly the pionneer and the one that carried the torch alone for a long while. But for a long while, if I am not mistaken, she did not make great progress, which stimulated Ramakrishnan and the Steitz-Moore team to get into it.

I think it is certainly fair (and the habit of the Nobel committee) to reward for sure first and foremost the pionneer (Yonath) rather than the late comers (the 4 others); but these late comers did abolutely terrific and, might I say out of admiration, unbelieavable work.
15:09 October 8, 2009 by Torontonian
Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Sweden. Reading the posts above is enough to smell that same old smell. There would be nothing of that sort if Ada Yonath was Russian or Chinese - except for maybe "Congratulations".

There was not even O N E post on what those scientists discovered to better humanity. Shameful, but I cannot say it was not expected.
15:30 October 8, 2009 by honorable
The 2009 Nobel laureates solved, at atomic resolution, the structure of an enormous macromolecule (the ribosome) essential for all protein synthesis. This structure is made of approximately 115 000 atoms, without any symmetry, without any repetition except for the fact that it is made of polymerised nucleotides and amino acids!

For comparison, Hodgkin got the chemistry Nobel prize in 1964 for solving at atomc resolution the structure of a molecule (vitamin B12) that was 550 times less complex.
20:20 October 8, 2009 by Iraniboy

Yes there isn't even one post regarding that!! That's because this forum has newly turned to ThelocalIsrael thanks to recent Aftonbladet artcile that was aimed in GYUIS and other propaganda pro-Israeli users. So it's like half of the posters here are either Israeli or pro-Israeli. Not mention that the rest were already non-Swede!
20:37 October 8, 2009 by honorable
Correction: the ribosome contains approximately 230 000 atoms. Thus, it can be seen as 1 100 times more complex than vitamin B12, for which the 1964 chemistry Nobel prize was awarded.

More specifically, the ribosome is a complex of 3 RNAs ( i.e. includes approximately 4 500 linked nucleotides) and 55 proteins (includes 7 000 linked amino acids).

The ever gracious Peter B. Moore is quoted as saying that "the Nobel committee got it exactly right". Note that Ramakrishnan did postdoctoral studies in Moore's lab and that the Steitz effort was a 50/50 venture with Peter Moore, Moore being the ribosome expert of the two and Steitz being the crystallography and X-ray scattering expert.
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