Celebrating the 2018 Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine, Physics and Chemistry

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


Who: The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to James Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan.

For what: James Allison and Tasuku Honjo were awarded the prize “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.” 

Their work is based on tweaking the immune system to fight cancer by blocking the activity of  “immune checkpoints” in the system. The work of T-cells in our immune system is to hunt down and destroy cells that are infected with germs or that have become cancerous. Their research on the immune checkpoints, i.e, receptors called “CTLA-4” and “PD1”, showed that T cells work more effectively to eradicate cancer cells when these “checkpoints” are inhibited.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Who: The award went to (one half to) Arthur Ashkin of the USA and (the other half jointly to) Gérard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada (making her the third woman to receive the award).

For What: They received the award “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.”

Arthur Ashkin received the prize for “optical tweezers and their application to biological systems”. Ashkin’s optical tweezers are made of lasers, and are able to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells without causing any harm to them. The twitter handle for The Nobel Prizes tweeted that with Ashkin’s work “science fiction has become a reality.” The tweet further stated the importance of his work- “Optical tweezers make it possible to observe, turn, cut, push and pull with light. In many laboratories, laser tweezers are used to study biological processes, such as proteins, molecular motors, DNA or the inner life of cells.”

Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland were jointly awarded the prize for their method of successfully generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. Earlier attempts at doing so always destroyed the amplifying material, which Mourou and Strickland successfully avoided. Their innovative technique is known as ‘chirped pulse amplification’ (CPA), and has now become the standard for high-intensity lasers.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Who: The prize was awarded (one half to) Frances Arnold of the USA and (the other half shared jointly by) Greg Winter of UK and George P. Smith of the USA.

For What: Frances Arnold was awarded the Nobel Prize “for the directed evolution of enzymes”– for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes which has lead to a more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, which include drugs, and also the production of renewable fuels.

Greg Winter and George P. Smith were awarded the prize “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.” 

Smith had developed a new way to evolve proteins and Winter used this method to evolve antibodies, with the goal of producing new drugs. These antibodies are capable of neutralizing toxins, counteracting autoimmune diseases as well as curing metastatic cancer. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that the first drug that is based on their work has been used against rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease.





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