The 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry went to scientists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson on Wednesday for developing cryo-electron microscopy which simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules.
Richard Henderson, 72, of the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, was rewarded in Stockholm for developments in electron microscopy.
Chemistry was the second prize mentioned in Alfred Nobel's 1895 will and was the most important of the sciences for his own work, according to the official website of the Nobel Prize.
The detailed images may pave the way for developing new medicines, vaccines and industrial chemicals, but experts said such payoffs are largely in the future. At first the images produced, though useful, were somewhat shapeless - leading cryo-electron microscopy to be dubbed "blobology".
"I think it's something for the future", Campbell said. And Dubochet found a way to add water and quickly freeze samples without crystalizing, essentially making a glass to capture molecules mid-movement without destroying them.
USA -based Thermo Fisher Scientific is a leading supplier of cryo-electron microscopy instruments.
"By solving more and more structures at the atomic level we can answer biological questions, such as how drugs get into cells, that were simply unanswerable a few years ago", Jim Smith, science director at the London-based biomedical research charity Wellcome, said in a statement.
"Frank developed an image processing method in which the electron microscope's fuzzy two-dimensional images are analyzed and merged to reveal a sharp three-dimensional structure", the Nobel announcement said. Cryo-electron microscopy, usually called cryo-EM for short, is the brainchild of their contributions and those of their colleagues.
It is used study the tiniest details of cell structures, viruses and proteins. The Swedish academy noted that the technology was used to create three-dimensional images of the virus and its proteins at atomic resolution - "and researchers could start searching for potential targets for pharmaceuticals". The benchmark for excellence in the domain of science is the Nobel Prize which is awarded for innovative ventures in Science and this time no exception.
Thursday sees the announcement of the victor (s) of the literature prize, and the much-awaited peace prize victor (s) will be announced on Friday.
The trio was presented with the prize money of 9 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) which will be split into three equals.