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Five of the six scientists who will share the 2013 Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine and chemistry have received funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The Institute has supported the research of 80 Nobel laureates, 40 in physiology or medicine and 40 in chemistry.
“This year’s Nobels exemplify two arms of the NIGMS mission—to understand the nature of basic life processes and to develop new ways to study these processes,” said Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D., NIGMS director. “The prize in physiology or medicine honors researchers who spent years chipping away at the fundamental mystery of how cells import and export materials. The chemistry prize recognizes scientists who developed a set of revolutionary new computational techniques to study, in unprecedented detail, the molecules essential to life.”
Two long-time NIGMS grantees won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine “for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.” They are:
James E. RothmanYale University
Randy W. SchekmanUniversity of California, Berkeley
Using completely different techniques—both of which were, at the time, new and risky—Rothman and Schekman independently discovered how cells use small sacs, called vesicles, to import and export materials. Their work revealed a transport system that is tightly tuned, delivering the right amount of cargo to a specified place at the proper time. In the words of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute, “without this wonderfully precise organization, the cell would lapse into chaos.” Among its many essential functions, the vesicle transport system enables brain cell function, the development of organs and the secretion of hormones such as insulin.
Rothman and Schekman will share the prize with Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University.
Three NIGMS grantees won the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” They are:
Martin KarplusHarvard University
Michael LevittStanford University School of Medicine
Arieh WarshelUniversity of Southern California
These scientists harnessed computers to calculate the locations, movements and interactions of individual atoms within molecules. The ability to obtain these structural details enabled the development of interactive, 3-D graphical models of proteins and other large molecules. Researchers across the globe now use computer-based modeling for a wide range of purposes, including visualizing and manipulating molecules as they search for drug targets, seek to understand the cause of various diseases and probe the inner workings of basic life processes.
More information about NIGMS support of Nobel Prize winners is available at
http://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/Pages/factsheet_NIGMSNobelists.aspx with a complete list at
This page last reviewed on
12/6/2019 3:00 PM
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