Nobel in Medicine Goes to a 'Textbook Discovery'

2 NYC natives and a Brit share prize for research into cells
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2019 6:05 AM CDT
Updated Oct 7, 2019 6:59 AM CDT
Nobel in Medicine Goes to a 'Textbook Discovery'
Thomas Perlmann, far right, Secretary-General of the Nobel Committee, announces the 2019 Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine in Stockholm. The prize has been awarded to scientists, from left on the screen, Gregg L. Semenza, Peter J. Ratcliffe, and William G. Kaelin Jr.   (Pontus Lundahl/TT via AP)

It's Nobel week, and the first of the prizes—medicine—has been awarded to two Americans and a Brit. The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Americans William G. Kaelin Jr. and Gregg L. Semenza, along with Peter J. Ratcliffe of the UK. The trio won for their discoveries of "how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability," the Nobel Committee announced Monday, per the AP. "This is something basic biology students will be learning about when they study ... the fundamental ways cells work," says Nobel committee member Randall Johnson, reports CNN. "This is a basic aspect of how a cell works and, from that standpoint alone, it's a very exciting thing." He called it a "textbook discovery."

Thomas Perlmann, the secretary of the Nobel Committee at Sweden's Karolinska Instititute, said he was able to call the three laureates Monday, adding the last one he called was Kaelin. He reached him via his sister, who gave him two phone numbers—the first one was a wrong number but he reached Kaelin on the second. "He was really happy," recounted Perlmann. Kaelin, 61, is a professor of medicine at Harvard University; Ratcliffe, 65, works at the University of Oxford; and Semenza, 63, works at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Both Americans were born in New York City. The research is helping with new treatments of cancer, anemia, and other diseases.

(More Nobel Prize stories.)

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