It’s the first week in October, so this is the time of year when researchers the world over who believe they may be candidates for the Nobel Prize are awaiting the call from Sweden. Eight scientists – two for medicine and three each for physics and chemistry – received the call, with some being truly surprised while others were deeply satisfied. I am always curious to find out whether any of their discoveries have implications for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. It turns out all three awards for 2023 have great potential.
In June 2021, in a blog entitled “Mothers of Invention,” I focused on Dr Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian biochemist and described her research on messenger RNA which led to successful Covid vaccines. I speculated, “Who knows, Karikó might even receive a life-changing call from Stockholm in early October!” Well, it took two years but on Monday this week she received that call to say she and her long-time collaborator, Drew Weissman, had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (seen above right, © The Guardian). Their basic research holds significant promise for an mRNA vaccine for breast cancer.
On Tuesday this week, Pierre Agostini, Anne L’Huillier, and Ferenc Krausz (seen left, © BBC) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for “experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter.” This was only the 5th time in over a century that a woman had been recognised, with L’Hullier commenting, “As you know, there are not so many women who get this prize, so it’s very, very special.” Attosecond physics has the potential to identify the movement of molecules with applications in medical diagnostics.
Then on Wednesday, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov (seen below right, © CNN) “for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.” These are nanoparticles that are so small their size determines their properties. Quantum dots have found application in colour TV and LED lamps, but they can also be used by surgeons to identify and remove cancerous breast tissue.
Although the laureates are announced in early October each year, they will only receive their medals on 10 December which is the birth date of Alfred Nobel. The ceremony will take place in the Grand Auditorium of the Stockholm Concert Hall and, during the Solemn Festival of the Nobel Foundation, the King of Sweden – Carl XVI Gustaf – will present the awards. This will be the highlight of each recipient’s career and their lives will undoubtedly never be the same again!