Lausanne University professor wins Nobel Prize for chemistry

Lausanne University professor wins Nobel Prize for chemistry

He announced the names of the winners Wednesday from the group's headquarters in Stockholm.

The 2017 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for the development of cryo-electron microscopy.

"Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have, through their research, brought 'the greatest benefit to (humankind).' Each corner of the cell can be captured in atomic detail and biochemistry is all set for an exciting future".

"Normally what I'd do if I was in Cambridge, we will have a party around tea-time in the lab but I expect we'll have it tomorrow instead", said Henderson, who works at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

Other researchers can use these kinds of images to design drugs that precisely fit into the structures, like a lock and key, to stop infection or to improve a cell's function.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was award for developing cryo-electro microscopy. As the name suggests, the researchers freeze molecules mid-action in order to "visualise processes they have never previously seen", the Nobel press release noted. "Cyro-electron microscopy changes all of this", the Nobel statement says.

Electron microscopes were once thought to be useful only for examining non-living objects because their electron beams destroy biological material. This protects it from damage.

It was also put to work past year in the fight against Zika, when the mosquito-borne virus was linked to an epidemic of brain-damaged babies in Brazil. The virus spreads when an infected mosquito bites a pregnant woman.

In the Zika virus, for example, scientists identified unique parts of the pathogen's structure using cryo-electron microscopy, identifying a potential target for a vaccine. Henderson succeeded in 1975 to work around the limitations of electron microscopy, by using weaker beams through the molecules and essentially filling in the gaps in the image by completing the regular pattern assumed by the protein, according to the Nobel committee.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Frank developed mathematical models to sharpen images from such microscopes. He developed a way to "vitrify" water by cooling it so rapidly that it became a solid in its liquid form (without forming ice crystals). Rather, they were left pointing every which way, resulting in a glass within which biological molecules were frozen in time - in their natural shape. The trio will share the prize money of 9mn Swedish kronor ($1.1mn).

2016 - Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa shared the prize for the making machines on a molecular scale. He was the inventor of dynamite, an explosive. The first awards were presented in 1901.

A Columbia University professor is one victor of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work on innovative and better ways to capture images of biomolecules.

Tomorrow will see the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Peace Prize announced on Friday.