I’m not a betting woman, but I have friends who are. And they wager on a variety of things, including who will win the annual Nobel awards. Yesterday, the prize for medical research was awarded, and while they might have had the inside track, I was totally surprised and thrilled to learn that two American women (and their British-born male colleague) were honored for their work on telomerase, an enzyme that may help cancer cells proliferate.
Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Dr. Carol W. Grieder, and Dr. Jack W. Szostak were jointly awarded the Nobel for their work from nearly 30 years ago, which may lead to new cancer therapies. Blackburn and Grieder, who discovered telomerase in 1984, when Greider was still a graduate student, had a mentor/mentee relationship, which adds an extra level of awesome. All three continue to work at American research universities, and will split the honors and the prize money among them.
The Nobel Prizes have been awarded annually since 1901, and in the fields of medicine, physics, and chemisty, fewer than 3% of awardees have been female. This year’s award for medicine is the first that honors two women at once.
You can read about a number of other Nobel-winning women in Sharon Bertsch McGrayne’s Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles and Momentous Discoveries (now in a 2nd Edition), or look into the history of the Nobel at its website. For a little more info on telomerase, go here. The prize for chemistry was announced today; those for Peace and Literature will come later this week. Place your bets now.
Congrats to Drs. Blackburn, Greider and Szostak!