William G. Kaelin Jr. is one of three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced this morning. Kaelin is the Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Kaelin shares the award with Peter J. Ratcliffe of the University of Oxford and the Francis Crick Institute, and Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who were cited for the discovery of the pathway by which cells from humans and most animals sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability, a process essential for survival.
With Kaelinâ€™s award, 49 current and former Harvard faculty members have now received Nobels for wide-ranging work, including the tissue culture breakthrough that led to creation of the polio vaccine, negotiations that led to an armistice in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the first description of the structure of DNA, pioneering procedures for organ transplants, the development of gross national product as a measure of national economic change, poetry, and much more.
Kaelinâ€™s research explores why mutations in genes known as tumor suppressors can lead to cancer. His study of a tumor-suppressor gene called VHL provided key insights into the bodyâ€™s response to changes in oxygen levels. He discovered that VHL helps control the levels of a protein known as HIF, which ratchets up or down the response to low oxygen, such as the production of red blood cells and new blood vessels. His subsequent discovery of a molecular switch that renders HIF oxygen-sensitive was critical to the understanding of how cells react to variations in oxygen level.
In 2016, Harvard Professor Oliver Hart, the Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics, was one of two recipients of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
Hart shared the award with Bengt HolmstrÃ¶m of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Hart worked mainly on contract theory, the theory of the firm, corporate finance, and law and economics. His research centered on the roles that ownership structure and contractual arrangements played in the governance and boundaries of corporations. He has been at Harvard since 1993.
In 2013, Martin Karplus â€™51, the Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Harvard, received the Nobel Prize in chemistry â€œfor the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.â€� The 83-year-old, Vienna-born theoretical chemist shared the Nobel Prize with two others: Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
In 2012, Alvin E. Roth, a Harvard economist whose practical applications of mathematical theories have transformed markets ranging from public school assignments to kidney donations to medical resident job placements, won the Nobel economics prize.
Prior to that, in 2009, Jack Szostak, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Szostakâ€™s work not only revealed a key cellular function, but also illuminated processes involved in disease and aging.
In 2007, Eric S. Maskin â€™72, Ph.D. â€™76, won Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Maskin was recognized (along with Leonid Hurwicz and Roger B. Myerson) â€œfor having laid the foundations of mechanism design theory.â€�
In 2005, physicist Roy Glauber won for his work on the nature and behavior of light, and Thomas Schelling won in economics for work on conflict and cooperation in game theory. Previous winners in the new millennium include Linda Buck in physiology or medicine in 2004, Riccardo Giacconi in physics in 2002, and A. Michael Spence in economics in 2001.
For a list of Harvard Nobel laureates, visit the website.