This is the third year that I update this list of potential winners. A warning, the list is highly biased towards basic biomedical research. In addition, some of the prizes may be more appropriate for the Chemistry prize.
We’ll start with my favorite, Membrane Traffic. This finding is one of the most basic discoveries in cell biology. The two obvious winners would be James Rothman and Randy Schekman.
Last year there was a rumor that intracellular signalling may win. Tony Hunter could get it for phospho-tyrosine, Tony Pawson for protein signalling domains, and Allan Hall for small G-protein switches. Maybe Lew Cantley for modifiable lipid signals.
Structure of the first virus. Steven Harrison and Michael Rossman.
Structure and function of the ribosome. Here the list is long. Some have joked that this prize will only be awarded when some of the candidates have died. Peter Moore, Tom Steitz, Venki Ramakrishnan, Harry Noeller and Ada Yonath. What they could do is give the medicine prize to some and the chemistry prize to others.
Sadly they can no longer give an award for Angiogenesis as
Judith Judah Folkman passed away earlier this year. This is really too bad. Dr Folkman labored against conventional wisdom and really opened up a new field of science.
Telomeres. Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak. Very important stuff that touches on both cancer and aging. They won last year’s Lasker Award.
Major Histocompatibility Complex, structure, maturation etc. Very hard. Don Wiley would be nominated here but he died. There are many others. In addition you could nominate Peter Cresswell.
The discovery of stemcells. Ernest McCulloch and James Till (they took the Lasker in 2006). How come this hasn’t been recognized yet???
Transport Motors. Ron Vale for kinesin (they could also throw in Sheetz here too), Ian Gibons for flagellar dynein, and maybe Rich Vallee for cytoplasmic dynein and dynamin … (there is little chance that this will happen – apparently the major complaint is that motors, i.e. myosin, already got recognized.) On a related note they could give an award for the discovery of AAA ATPases, I’m not sure who would get that but probably Bob Sauer would be on the list. A more appropriate award would be for the proteasome, but that was already the topic for the 2004 Chemistry award. (Who knows, maybe they can use this as an excuse to give it to Fred Goldberg and Alexander Varshavsky )
Chaperones Maybe Hartl, Ellis and Neupert? Maybe Lindquist? I don’t know this fild too well, so if you have any more informed opinion, let me know. It would be funny if Neupert got a nobel and Jeff Schatz didn’t.
And of course there is p53, one of the most important tumor supressors known. There are about 3 codiscoverers (Arnold Levine, David Lane, and Lloyd Old) so they could get it. There would be a problem with Levine as he had been involved in a small controversy. Bert Vogelstein wasn’t one of the p53 discoverers, but he may get it too for demonstrating that it is a tumor suppressor. If it’s tumor suppressors they could also give a prize to Robert Weinberg.
Mitosis I would love to see Shinya Inoue get it for the discovery of the mitotic spindle. They could also give it to Mitchison and Kirschner for the discovery of microtubule dynamics. Many others could be listed here.
OK time for some wild guesses …
Going back to cytoskeletal stuff, how about cell migration? The area is sort of fuzzy. Actin dynamics could go to Yu-Li Wang. The discovery of ARP2/3 would go to Tom Pollard. (They could also give one to Marie-France Carlier and Dominique Pantaloni for the chemistry of cytoskeletal polymers. I would love to see them share the stage with Pollard!) Allan Hall for small G-proteins. Who would get it for formins???
And then here is my personal favorite:
Fluorescent protein imaging technology. Perhaps this would be more of a Chemistry prize. Roger Tsien (Bapta, FLASH, and evolving about a dozen new fluorescent proteins from dsRed in vitro – see image above). This would kind of be neat as Dr Tsien used selection (i.e. evolution) to design reagents. (Take that you IDiots!) But then there is also green fluorescent protein (GFP). This would be a problem. Osamu Shimomura isolated this wonder macromolecule. Douglas Prasher cloned the gene that encodes it but lost his funding before he could do any work on the protein (and then left academic science!) Martin Chalfie heard about GFP (at a talk?) got the DNA from Prasher as his lab was closing. Chalfie published the first paper where GFP was used in some application. Tough to tell who they would give it to.
Two years ago I thought that RNAi was possible but unlikely as it was a relatively new discovery – then it won. So how about micro RNAs. Victor Ambros, Gary Ruvkun and David Baulcombe (they won this year’s Lasker too!)
The human genome. Venter, Lander, Collins. It’s not really a discovery. I like them, they did a lot of good, but I don’t think they should get it.
Cloning? Ian Wilmut would get it, but he had been involved in some controversy. This might be a can of worms the nobels may not want to touch.
I mentioned one Steitz, but how about Joan Steitz? The problem is that they already gave an award to splicing. I’m not sure what would be the topic this time around.
A bold proposal would be to give it to Brown and Goldstein AGAIN. These guys have done so much great work. Their studies on cholesterol metabolism won in 1985 but they could also get it for receptor mediated endocytosis, and other great discoveries. Speaking of cholesterol they could give it to Akira Endo for his discovery of statins.
Transcription profile chips. Again more of a chemistry prize. Pat Brown would have to get it. Maybe Steve Fodor. This has revolutionized biology and may one day revolutionize medicine. One problem is that Affymetrix chips are being replaced by high-throughput deep sequencing technologies. They could lump in related technical advances such as hybridization, southern blot etc.
In vitro generation of Stem Cell (aka iPS Cells) Way too early. But Shinya Yamanaka should get it one day. Click here to read why.
If you wanted a discovery that dramatically changed life, how about anti-HIV drugs? (I’m not clear on the history here, you’ll have to tell me who are responsible or if this is feasible). Of course this prize will raise the issue of the pharmas vs. providers of generic drugs …
OK that’s it. If you have any ideas on who may win, leave a comment.