Nobel Prize in Medicine – A Walkthrough


The Nobel Foundation awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for significant discoveries in the domains of medicine and life sciences. The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel bequeathed five prizes, out of which the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine is one, in 1895. Presented annually to celebrate the death anniversary of Nobel (10 December), Nobel Prize is one of the most hallowed awards in the world. Till now, 207 men and 12 women have won the award.

The prize comprises a medal, diploma and a monetary award certificate. Today, we will be taking a look at the some of the latest winners of Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine:

  1. 2020 Winners

Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice are the joint winners for the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. They won the award for their groundbreaking discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

Owing to their discovery, sensitive blood tests for the virus can be undertaken and they have significantly eliminated post-transfusion hepatitis in several areas globally. This has led to a remarkable improvement in global health. The discovery of the Hepatitis C virus is a milestone achievement in the history of medicine and the battle against viral diseases.

  1. 2019 Winners

In 2019, the prize was awarded jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr., Peter J. Ratcliffe, and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries concerning how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.

Their discovery recognized and established the genetic mechanisms which let cells respond to fluctuations in oxygen levels. This discovery has implications and may assist doctors around the world in treating a range of diseases, including but not limited to anemia, cancer, heart attacks, strokes, etc.

  1. 2018 Winners

The 2018 Nobel Prize was given to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their crucial findings concerning cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.

Their work is revolutionary and their discoveries on the CTLA4 and PD1 immune checkpoints reflected that these pathways act as so-called ‘brakes’ on the immune system. It further revealed that the “inhibition of these checkpoint pathways allows T cells to remove and fight cancer cells more optimally.” This groundbreaking research set the foundation for the irrefutable development of immune checkpoint inhibitors and these have improved the results with people suffering from cancer.

  1. 2017 Winners

The 2017 prize was jointly awarded to Michael Rosbash, Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael W. Young for their illumination of the “molecular mechanisms regulating circadian rhythm”. They discovered the prize-winning research on “Drosophila which uncovered the internal oscillators, or natural clocks, that coordinate cellular metabolism and organismal behavior to the day/night (light/dark) cycle to create biological rhythms with the 24-hour periodicity.”

  1. 2016 Winners

The 2016 Prize was presented to “Yoshinori Ohsumi, a cell biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.” He was awarded the prize for his innovative discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.

“Autophagy can be defined as the process through which cells catch large dysfunctional proteins, aging organelles, and attacking pathogens in vesicles and then direct towards the lysosome for degradation.” This discovery is vital to life processes as dysfunction pr disruption of the autophagy process can prove to be life threatening to all ages.

  1. 2015 Winners

The 2015 prize was given jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, and Youyou Tu.

Campbell and Omura got the award for their research and discovery regarding a novel therapy against infections triggered by roundworm parasites and Tu got it for her findings concerning an innovative therapy for malaria.

Campbell and Ōmura found a new drug, “Avermectin, whose derivatives have drastically decreased the occurrence of River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis” in addition to certain parasitic diseases. Youyou Tu founded Artemisinin, a drug that has countered the mortality rates for patients suffering from life-threatening Malaria.

  1. 2014 Winners

The 2014 prize was given to John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I. Moser, the latter being the second married couple in history to have received this award.

The three scientists’ findings have resolved a problem that philosophers and scientists questioned for centuries: “how does the human brain develop a map of the space surrounding us and how does the brain help in navigating the complicated environment around us?” The researchers found that the positioning system helps us navigate our world while it also keeps the knowledge of our whereabouts, storing the location in the brain.

  1. 2013 Winners

The 2013 prize was awarded to James E Rothman, Randy W Schekman, and Thomas C Südhof for their distinguished work on how “biological cells establish and carry the many molecules they need to function.”

They won the award for their discoveries regarding the machinery controlling vesicle traffic, a vital transport system in at cellular level.

  1. 2012 Winners

The 2012 prize was awarded to Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for their collective work that reformed and enabled a stronger understanding of how cells and organisms develop.

The Nobel Assembly stated that these findings are indeed groundbreaking and have completely transformed how we see the development and cellular specialization. Owing to the discovery, science has progressed as we now know that mature cells don’t have to be confined all the time to its specialized form.

  1. 2011 Winners

The 2011 prize was awarded to Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann, and Ralph Steinman for their discoveries on the “elucidation of innate immunity, the non-particular assortment of initial responses by the body’s immune system which can identify invading microorganisms as foreign and try to work against them for destroying them and helping the body retain good health.”