STOCKHOLM — Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka have won the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited the two researchers Wednesday “for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors.”
Lefkowitz, a Jewish physician and path-breaking biochemist from New York, and Kobilka were awarded the prize for “groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family … of receptors: G-protein–coupled receptors,” an Oct. 10 posting on the website of the Nobel Prize stated. Understanding how these receptors function helped further explain how cells could sense their environment, according to the text.
Lefkowitz –- who works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina — and Kobilka worked together to isolate and analyze a gene which led them to discover that “the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner,” the Nobel Prize website said.
Lefkowitz, 61, and Kobilka, 57, will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize Committee.
In 2008, Lefkowitz received the US National Medal of Science. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported at the time that he was one of three American-Jewish recipients that year of the nation’s highest honor in science and technology.
The Nobel week started Monday with the medicine prize going to stem-cell pioneers John Gurdon of Britain and Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka. Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland won the physics prize Tuesday for work on quantum particles.
Last year, Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman from the Technion won the chemistry award for the discovery of quasicrystals, made in 1982, which “fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter,” according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The Nobel Prizes were established in the 1895 will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Each award is worth 8 million kronor, or about $1.2 million.