The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has a strong track record of funding scientists who receive a Nobel Prize.

Since its creation in 1962, NIGMS has supported the work of 89 Nobel laureates—43 in physiology or medicine and 46 in chemistry. These investigators perform cutting-edge basic research that is the foundation for understanding normal life processes and disease. Among their discoveries are:

  • Translating the genetic code of DNA and explaining how it functions in the production of proteins in the cell.
    Robert W. Holley and H. Gobind Khorana (shared with Marshall W. Nirenberg)
  • Defining the internal organization of cells using electron microscopy and other techniques. This laid the foundation for understanding key cellular pathways and processes.
    George E. Palade and Christian de Duve (shared with Albert Claude)
  • Finding that RNA can act as a catalyst to control and direct cellular functions.
    Thomas Cech and Sidney Altman
  • Discovering restriction enzymes, which cut DNA at precise locations. This is a cornerstone of recombinant DNA technology—joining pieces of DNA from different sources.
    Hamilton O. Smith and Daniel Nathans (shared with Werner Arber)
  • Identifying proteins that trigger a cell’s response to outside signals. These are involved in normal activities as well as diseases such as cancer, cholera, and diabetes.
    Alfred G. Gilman (shared with Martin Rodbell)

These and other important breakthroughs in chemistry and biology often lead to more focused research that, years later, leads to important medical advances or products such as medicines or biotechnology tools.

An enzyme encircles the double helix to repair a broken strand of DNA.

Credit: Tom Ellenberger, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Dave Gohara, Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Recent Nobel Laureates Supported by NIGMS

NameNobel PrizeOfficial Citation
Frances H. Arnold & George P. SmithChemistry 2018For the directed evolution of enzymes and for the phage display of peptides and antibodies
Joachim FrankChemistry 2017For developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution
Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, & Michael W. YoungPhysiology or Medicine 2017For their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm
Paul Modrich &
Aziz Sancar
Chemistry 2015For mechanistic studies of DNA repair
William E. MoernerChemistry 2014For the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy
Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt & Arieh WarshelChemistry 2013For the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems
James E. Rothman & Randy W. SchekmanPhysiology or Medicine 2013For their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells
Brian K. KobilkaChemistry 2012For studies of G-protein-coupled receptors

See a full list of NIGMS-supported Nobel Prize winners and links to news releases about their work.

Crossword Puzzle: Test Your Nobel Knowledge [PDF, 315KB]

Nobel Quick Facts

The Nobel Prize was created by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The international award has been given yearly since 1901 for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Another category, economics, was added by the Nobel Foundation in 1968. Winners receive their awards on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death. For more facts about the Nobel Prize, visit

More Information

Want to know more about NIGMS and the award-winning researchers it funds? Visit

Nobel Prize Medal. Copyright The Nobel Foundation.

© The Nobel Foundation.

Related Information

NIGMS Resources on 2018 Nobel Prizes

NIGMS is a part of the National Institutes of Health that supports basic research to increase our understanding of biological processes and lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. For more information on the Institute’s research and training programs, visit

This page last reviewed on 7/13/2020 1:52 PM