nobel medicine prize

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012) was an Italian neurologist who in 1986 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF). She also served as Senator for Life in the Italian Senate from 2001 until her death at 103.

She studied medicine at the University of Turin and remained there as an assistant after graduation, but lost her position when in 1938 Jews were barred from holding academic posts. Nevertheless she set up a laboratory in her bedroom, and the research conducted there set the basis for her groundbreaking discoveries. Over the years her work led to the creation of new anti-inflammatory drugs and a greater understanding of how cancer spreads and evolves.

Continuing on with honouring brilliant women of colour, this is Youyou Tu. She won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015 for ‘her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria’. Youyou discovered and extracted the substance artemisinin, which inhibits the malaria parasite. Due to Youyou Tu’s discovery, which was hailed as a breakthrough in tropical medicine, millions of people in tropical developing countries have had their lives saved and their health improved.

Youyou’s position as a Nobel Prize laureate made her the first Chinese Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine and the first female citizen of the People’s Republic of China to have received a Nobel Prize in any category. She currently resides in Beijing with her husband, Li Tingzhao, and is Chief Scientist at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Malaria vs. Neurosyphilis: the story of an unethical experiment and its mysterious conclusions.

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011)  was an American medical physicist, and a co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Yalow was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and she received the National Medal of Science in 1988.

Yalow is most known for the development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA). RIA is a radioisotope tracing technique that uses antibodies to measure small amounts of biological substances in fluids. She first developed  it to study blood insulin levels in diabetes patients, and the method is still used widely today.

Bayer AG is a German chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in Barmen (now Wuppertal) in 1863. It’s headquartered in Leverkusen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Northwestern Germany, where its illuminated sign is a landmark. Bayer’s primary areas of business include human and veterinary pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare products, agricultural chemicals, biotech products; and high-value polymers. During WW2 it was part of IG Farben, which was broken up after the war, when Bayer became independent again. Bayer’s first and best known product was Aspirin. They also trademarked “heroin” and marketed it as a cough suppressant and non-addictive substitute for morphine from 1898 to 1910. They introduced phenobarbital, Prontosil, the first widely used antibiotic, and the subject of the 1939 Nobel Prize in Medicine, the antibiotic Cipro (ciprofloxacin), and Yaz (drospirenone) birth control pills. In 2014, they bought Merck’s consumer business, with US-brands such as Claritin, Coppertone, and Dr. Scholl’s. Bayer sponsors Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a Bundesliga football club. The company has been involved in controversies regarding some of its products; e.g. its statin drug Baycol (cerivastatin) was discontinued in 2001 after 52 people died from renal failure, and Trasylol (Aprotinin), used to control bleeding during major surgery, was withdrawn from the markets worldwide when reports of increased mortality emerged; it was later re-introduced in Europe. Bayer’s neonicotinoid pesticides have been the subject of controversy regarding their possible role in colony collapse disorder.

In 1949 the Portuguese neurologist Antônio Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas Moniz was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine with the Swiss physiologist Walter Hess. At the 1935 International Neurological Conference in London, Moniz encountered the work of Fulton and Jacobsen who had observed behavioural changes in chimpanzees following removal of the frontal lobes. Together with Almeida Lima, Moniz initially adapted the technique for humans by drilling holes in the skull and injecting alcohol into the frontal lobes. The procedure of parietal prefrontal leucotomy was later developed, involving severing fibre tracts between the thalamus and the frontal lobes with a retractable wire loop or ‘leucotome’. The American psychiatrist Walter Freeman further developed this by accessing the frontal lobes through the eye sockets (trans-orbital leucotomy or lobotomy). The procedure was eventually abandoned as a therapy for schizophrenia with the advent of the phenothiazines. Dr Egas Moniz became an invalid and retired (1945) after he was shot in the spine by one of his patients. He died in Lisbon in 1955.

10 Amazing Latin@s in STEM

Luis Federico Leloir (born 1906. Paris, France)

Argentine biochemist received Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery of metabolic pathways in lactose.

Jacinto Convit Garcia (born 1913. Caracas, Venezuela)

A Venezuelan physician, he developed a vaccine to fight leprosy and conducted studies to cure different types of cancer. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1988.

Ellen Ochoa (born 1958. Los Angeles, CA)

Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She is also an inventor and pioneer of spacecraft technology.

Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez (born 1942. Guantanamo, Cuba)

Member of the Soyuz 38 Crew. Became the first Cuban and first Latin American in space in 1980.

Helen Rodriguez Trias (born 1929, NYC)

Puerto Rican-American pediatrician. Became first Latina president of the American Public Health Association. Helped expand the range of public heath services for women and children in minority and low income groups. 

Jose Hernandez (born 1962. French Camp, CA)

Mexican-American engineer and NASA astronaut. Helped develop a digital mammography imaging system. First person to tweet in spanish from space. (also a UCSB graduate, go gauchos!)

Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena (born 1917, Guadalajara)

Mexican electrical engineer and inventor of early color television transmission system. Brought color television to Mexico. A television system similar to his was used by NASA in 1979 aboard Voyager to take pictures of Jupiter.

Nitza Margarita Cintron (born 1950. San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Puerto Rican scientist and chief of space medicine and health care systems at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Served as project scientist for Space Lab 2 mission in the 1980s

Mario J Molina (born 1943. Mexico City)

Currently a professor at UCSD , he received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995 for his role in the discovery of the threat to the Earth’s ozone from chlorofluorocarbon gasses (CFCs).

Martha E. Bernal (born 1931. San Antonio)

Mexican-American psychologist and first Latina to receive a psychology PhD in the United States. Promoted diversity in the field of psychology.


charité // historical figures {2/?}

emil von behring (1854-1917) was a german physician and scientist. he is credited with the discovery of a diphtheria antitoxin and the development of an antiserum (together with his colleagues kitasato shibasaburō, paul ehrlich and erich wernicke), thereby creating an effective cure for the infection that was a major cause for child death at the time. the press hailed him as the “saviour of the children”. later, he was also to become known as the “saviour of the soldiers” when he developed an improved cure for tetanus that was used to treat the soldiers fighting in the dirty trenches of world war one.

in 1901, he received the first nobel prize for medicine. in the same year, he was ennobled.

emil von behring was unpopular with colleagues, employees and students, due to his ruthless character. he cheated his jewish colleague paul ehrlich out of his fair share of profits for the diphteria anti-serum. behring himself, who had worked his way up from a poor background, became rich through the production of the anti-serum; but he remained tough on himself and others. he suffered from depression for most of his life and was addicted to morphine and opium, spending several years in psychiatric institutions.

Gertrude B. Elion (1918-1999) was one of the recipients of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Throughout her career she developed a variety of new drugs, including the AIDS treatment AZT, as well as azathioprine, the first immunosuppressive drug.

Because of gender bias, she found it very difficult to obtain work despite two degrees in chemistry, and began as a food quality supervisor for supermarkets. Eventually she obtained a research position with a pharmaceutical company in New York, and went on to collaborate with the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization.

Linda B. Buck (b. 1947) is the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, for her work on olfactory receptors. She has significantly added to the understanding of how odours are detected in the nose and transposed into information in the brain.

After obtaining a PhD in immunology, she became an assistant professor in neurobiology at the Harvard Medical School, and established her own research lab. She has been awarded numerous international prizes for her groundbreaking discoveries in relation to the olfactory system.

Nobel Awarded Women In Medicine and Physiology

Gerty Theresa Cori - 1947 Discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen (also known as Cori Cycle)

Rosalyn Yalow - 1977 Development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones

Barbara McClintock - 1983 Discovery of mobile genetic elements

Rita Levi-Montalcini - 1986 Discoveries of growth factors

Gertrude B. Elion - 1988 Discoveries of important principles for drug treatment

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard - 1995 Discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development

Linda B. Buck - 2004 Discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi - 2008 Discovery of human immunodeficiency virus

Carol W. Greider - 2009 Discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase

Elizabeth H. Blackburn - 2009 Discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase

May-Britt Moser - 2014 Discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain

We can be the next. WE CAN DO IT!



Winner of a 1988 Nobel Prize for Medicine, biochemist Gertrude Elion and her team made countless contributions to the medical field, developing drugs to fight against leukemia, gout, malaria, herpes and meningitis. She discovered an immuno-suppressive agent that would aid in kidney transplants between unrelated donors by reducing the body’s rejection of foreign tissue, and on top of all that, she oversaw research that led to the development of AZT, the first drug used for AIDS treatments.

This is why it’s a problem.

Jacinto Convit García (11 September 1913 – 12 May 2014) was a Venezuelan physician and scientist, known for developing a vaccine to fight leprosy and his studies to cure different types of cancer. He played a significant role in founding Venezuela’s National Institute of Biomedicine and held many leprosy-related positions. Among Convit’s many honors for his work on leprosy and tropical diseases was Spain's Prince of Asturias Award in the Scientific and Technical Research category and France's Legion of Honor. In 1988, Convit was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his experimental anti-leprosy vaccine.

Why having a Plan B can sometimes backfire by Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya

Having a fallback plan is generally considered a good thing. When it comes to applying for colleges, jobs or mortgages, we’ve probably all heard the advice, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” or “Make sure you have a Plan B just in case Plan A doesn’t work out.” And there is some scientific support for this approach. Cognitive psychologists at NYU and the University of Chicago have confirmed that having a backup can alleviate some of the psychological discomfort associated with uncertainty and help us feel better about the future. But by and large, having a backup plan comes with a cost — as shown in these stories from the history of science, matched with the latest research on how our minds work.

A backup plan can make you less excited about your main plan. Some researchers have recently found that having a fallback, or even thinking through one, might actually make you less motivated to achieve your primary goal and thus end up impeding your performance. “Considering a backup plan could have the consequence of identifying another goal as valuable, which can lead us to re-evaluate our primary goal and maybe decrease its value,” says neuroscientist Benedicte Babayan, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University. “And the natural consequence of a decreased value would be a decreased willingness to pursue the initial goal.”

It could also water down your motivation. While fear of failure can be a paralyzing force, sometimes it can provide the push we need. Another study has found that the more negative emotions you anticipate feeling if you fail to reach your goal, the more driven you might be to achieve it. By concocting a backup plan, you could be unintentionally removing a powerful incentive.

Another lesson in Plan A thinking: Stay focused on your goal, so you know how best to reach it. Chien-Shiung Wu graduated at the top of her class at National Central University in China in 1934. She had a passion for physics, but since there were no graduate programs in the subject in her country, she made the bold decision to leave and get a doctorate in America. She was accepted at the University of Michigan. After enduring the months-long steamboat voyage across the Pacific and disembarking in San Francisco, she had time before her classes began, so she stopped by the University of California, Berkeley’s physics department. She was so excited by the work she saw there that she abandoned her plans at U of M and squeezed her way into Cal’s PhD program. She went on to play a pivotal role in the separation of uranium isotopes and sent shockwaves through the field when she disproved a long-held principle called conservation of parity.

Before you set out to pursue your goal, remember this: being risky doesn’t mean being reckless. The neuromodulators that affect motivation — dopamine, cortisol and adrenaline — “are known to have an ‘inverted U’ activity pattern,” says neuroscientist Ioana Carcea, a postdoctoral researcher at New York University. “Moderately high levels of these neuromodulators have an effect on neuronal activity and behavior that’s different from the effects they have at both very low and very high levels.” In other words, these neuromodulators — which work on the prefrontal cortex, an area that is important for action planning and goal-directed behavior — appear to be of optimal benefit when they’re at moderate levels but not at very low or very high levels. So if pursuing a Plan A is putting your life — or your life savings — in danger, having a safety net might be a good thing.

Anticipate adjustments to your plan. Expect your path to evolve as you take action — and respect that there’s a difference between abandoning your Plan A and navigating around setbacks and challenges to it. In 1938, Italian neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini had to adjust to an enormous setback when fascist dictator Benito Mussolini barred all Jewish people from academic and professional jobs. She could have abandoned her research, but instead she set up a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom and forged on. That’s where she made the discovery of nerve growth factor. She was able to return to university work after World War II, and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1986.

So, the next time you find yourself worried about not having a backup plan, ask yourself this: is making a Plan B worth the risk to your Plan A?

Brazil's Nobel Laureate

Meet Brian Medawar, Brazil’s first and so far only Nobel Prize winner. He split the 1960  Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with a Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet. Medwar won “for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance” which basically means he was the father of organ transplants.

On This Day in History: July 19th

1921 - Rosalyn Sussman Yalow born.

Rosalyn Yalow was one of the nation’s premier medical physicists, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine (1977) and the first woman to win the Lasker Prize (1976). Yalow’s Lasker Prize and Nobel Prize were awarded for one of the century’s most significant scientific discoveries. Working in radioisotopes, she and her colleague, Dr. Solomon Berson, refined a new approach – called radioimmunoassay (RIA) – using radioisotopes to analyze physiological systems. The technique used radioisotopes to “tag” certain hormones or proteins, making detailed measurements possible of previously undetected concentrations of hormones. RIA opened many doors in the study of disease and chemical responses. Rosalyn Yalow, wife and mother of two children, believed women could balance career and family life. On receiving her Nobel Prize, Yalow spoke about women in science careers: “We must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us…we must feel a personal responsibility to ease the path for those who come after us. The world cannot afford the loss of the talents of half its people if we are to solve the many problems that beset us.”

NEWSHOUR SCIENCE: Why this Japanese scientist won a 2016 Nobel Prize in medicine for cell ‘self-eating’

Yoshinori Ohsumi, a Japanese cell biologist, has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for his discoveries on a process whereby cells essentially eat themselves. The process is called autophagy, and though it’s essential for your health, your high school biology teacher may have skipped a lesson on autophagy due to its complexity.

Think of autophagy as a cell’s internal spa or recycling plant. Cells use autophagy for self-renewal.

When our cells are starved or otherwise stressed, they don’t immediately shut down. Instead, they employ autophagy to cannibalize their own components.

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