Gaze into the crystal ball - Nobel Prize Predictions

This is the fourth 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.

Intracellular signaling 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, such as IP3. And then there is TOR signaling ...

Structure of the first virus. Steven Harrison and Michael Rossman.

Structure and function of the ribosome. A big favorite. 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.

Telomeres. Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak. Very important stuff that touches on both cancer and aging.

Major Histocompatibility Complex, structure, maturation etc. Very hard. Don Wiley would be nominated here but he died. There are too many potential winners here to name.

The discovery of stem cells. Ernest McCulloch and James Till (they took the Lasker in 2006). How come this hasn't been recognized yet??? As a bonus the third spot could go to the discovery of iPS cells by Shinya Yamanaka.

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.)

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???

Three 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.

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.

OK that's it. If you have any ideas on who may win, leave a comment.

More like this

"There would be a problem with Levine as he had been involved in a small controversy."

Eeeeeeeeeew. The tech in a friend's lab was the one who walked in on him. Serious moral terpitude.

Okay. Here are a few more.

How about Hunter for phosphotyrosine, with Jack Dixon for Pi phosphatases and Brian Druker (who got the clinical Lasker this year) for Gleevec, which is after all a Tyr kinase inhibitor?

TOR is *way* premature, and it's only one of several metabolic integrators. That it's important is clear, but no one knows how it works, at so many levels. Anyway there was already a Nobel for kinase-mediated metabolic control (Krebs/Fischer).

Robin Irvine and Sol Snyder - not Cantley - for Phosphoinositide and IP3/Ca2+ signaling?

Innate immunity? That's tough, since Janeway died.

Chaperones and protein quality control? Hartl and Peter Walter? I would love to see PW get it.

Nuclear receptors for steroids and other things: Ellwood Jensen, Pierre Chambon, and Ron Evans.

Yoshinori Ohsumi and Dan Klionsky for autophagy. It'd be pretty funny if that happened before Rothman/Schekman.

I doubt that Hall could get it, at least solo, for small G-protein switches. There was simply too much earlier work by others on Ras before Hall's groundbreaking work on the Rho's. They're really just an instance, not significantly mechanistically different. Really one might go back to the ribosomal GTPases which provided the template for all of that later work.

But in the end I agree that the person whom I'd most like to see get it is Shinya Inoue. I really see his contributions as more radical, significant, and imaginative than those of Tsien or Chalfie, and they deserved the Nobel. Shinya even more so then.

and another one checked off the list, after GFP last year :)

the list keeps getting shorter. I guess, next year you have to come up with some new possible recepients?? It's great that they gave it to the ribosome this year, though.

Why is Keith Yamamoto overlooked when their are discussions of steroid receptor nobels.
here is a quote from an abstract of a paper in 1972!! (evans and chambon wouldnt touch them until years later)

"These results are interpreted in terms of a model for action of estrogen in which the hormone potentiates binding of receptor to DNA, and in turn, the DNA-binding process triggers the cell response."

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1972 Aug;69(8):2105-9.