NIGMS Grantees Recognized with Nobel Prize in Chemistry


Statement from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences
October 8, 2008

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences congratulates Osamu Shimomura, Ph.D, Martin Chalfie, Ph.D., and Roger Y. Tsien, Ph.D., on their selection for the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The Institute has supported their work with more than $18 million in research grants since 1979. Total support from the National Institutes of Health exceeds $29 million.

The scientists have been recognized "for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP." This naturally glowing protein found in jellyfish, first described by Shimomura in 1962, has become a standard visualization tool in labs around the world. Today, more than 30,000 published studies cite its use.

Researchers use GFP and similar fluorescent proteins as molecular "light bulbs." They attach them to specific molecules inside living tissues and cells to see biological processes with great clarity and detail. Chalfie’s work in the early 1990s turned GFP into a powerful tool for studying gene expression and Tsien’s work in subsequent years produced an entire palette of colors that glowed longer and brighter and allowed researchers to study many different molecules at the same time. Together, the researchers’ work has illuminated studies in developmental biology, genetics, cell biology, and biophysics.

"On the road to scientific discovery, GFP has literally been a green light," said NIGMS director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D. "It has greatly sped our ability to study processes as they occur in living cells and has brought us to new vistas we never before imagined."

NIGMS has a long history of funding Nobel Prize-winning research. Since its creation in 1962, the Institute has supported 35 Nobel laureates in physiology or medicine and 32 Nobel laureates in chemistry.

More information about NIGMS support of Nobel Prize winners is available at