The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2009 jointly to Ada E. Yonath, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel; Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom; and Thomas A. Steitz, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.”
Yonath, an Israeli citizen., was born in Jerusalem in 1939. She earned her doctorate in X-ray Crystallography in 1968 from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. Yonath is the Martin S. and Helen Kimmel Professor of Structural Biology and Director of Helen & Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure & Assembly, both at Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.
According to the announcement posted on nobelprize.org, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2009 awards studies of one of life’s core processes: the ribosome’s translation of DNA information into life. Ribosomes produce proteins, which in turn control the chemistry in all living organisms. As ribosomes are crucial to life, they are also a major target for new antibiotics.
This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry awards Yonath, Ramakrishnan and Steitz for having showed what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level. All three have used a method called X-ray crystallography to map the position for each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome.
This year’s three Laureates have all generated 3D models that show how different antibiotics bind to the ribosome. Scientists now use these models in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity’s suffering.