• 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
Where to see the Northern Lights in Sweden
The Northern Lights pictured in Sweden on Wednesday night. Photo: Norrsken Sverige

An unusually high level of solar activity means the spectacle could be visible from rare spots in the country.

Swedish police 'in crisis' says union head
A file photo of Swedish police officers. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The creation of a new merged national police authority in Sweden has not gone well, according to the Swedish Police Union.

Nobel Prizes 2016
Nobel Literature Prize announcement delayed
Haruki Murakami (pictured) is one of the bookmakers' favourites. Photo: Bernat Armangue/AP/TT

The delay is due to 'arithmetic', an academician said.

Horny elk hold up Swedish hunt
One of the randy animals in question. Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

The giant things just can't contain themselves.

Sweden to ban masks but not burqas at football matches
A masked supporter at a Stockholm derby football match last year. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

The ban is designed to curb violence at sporting events in Sweden, but it must also follow conventions on religious freedom.

Video
Heckler humbles Swedish golf champion with perfect putt
Henrik Stenson met his match in the final practice for the Ryder Cup. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP/TT

Well that wasn't supposed to happen...

Presented by Invest Stockholm
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges

It’s no secret that Stockholm is serious about sustainability. We took a look at how the city's emerging startups are tackling global challenges, making the world a better place.

Warm weather melts H&M profits
An H&M store in central Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A warm autumn may be good news for Swedes, but it was bad news for Sweden's biggest clothing brand.

Rail delays after heavy winds batter Sweden
The weather is expected to clear up. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Commuters were advised to take it easy in traffic on Friday, after harsh winds toppled trees across roads and railways across Sweden.

Homes
In pictures: Eight traditional Swedish tiled stoves
A tiled stove. Photo: Wrede Fastighetsmäkleri

The traditional Swedish masonry stove (kakelugn) is still a popular feature in many homes today. Houzz.se's Amanda Strömberg has found out more.

Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
National
OPINION: Sweden bad, Norway good, Trump better? I'm confused
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
National
Here's how much Sweden's highest-earning authors make
National
Where to see the Northern Lights in Sweden
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Expat finances in Sweden: the Common Reporting Standard
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
National
Aliens' sex lives? Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
3,028
jobs available