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Structural Biology Highlights

Structural Biology and Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prize highlights achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. Since its inception, many awards have recognized achievements made in molecular biology, structural biology, and related research. Molecule of the Month articles offer a starting point to explore these Prizes.

Myoglobin was the first protein visualized in 3D by X-ray crystallography, laying the foundation for a new era of biological understanding. For this discovery, John Kendrew and Max Perutz shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Year Category Prize Related Molecules of the Month articles
2017 Physiology or Medicine Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, Michael W. Young
"for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm"

2016 Physiology or Medicine Yoshinori Ohsumi
"for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy"

2015 Physiology or Medicine William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura
"for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites"

Youyou Tu
"for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria"

2015 Chemistry Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar
"for mechanistic studies of DNA repair"


2014 Chemistry Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner
"for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy"

2013 Physiology or Medicine James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof
"for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells"


2012 Chemistry Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka
"for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors"


2011 Physiology or Medicine Bruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann
"for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity"

Ralph M. Steinman
"for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity"

2009 Chemistry Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath
"for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome"


2008 Physiology or Medicine Harald zur Hausen
"for his discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer"

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier
"for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus"

2008 Chemistry Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien
"for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP"

2006 Physiology or Medicine Andrew Z. Fire and Craig C. Mello
"for their discovery of RNA interference - gene silencing by double-stranded RNA"

2006 Chemistry Roger D. Kornberg
"for his studies of the molecular basis of eukaryotic transcription"

2005 Physiology or Medicine Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren
"for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease"

2004 Chemistry Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose "for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation"

2003 Chemistry "for discoveries concerning channels in cell membranes"

Peter Agre
"for the discovery of water channels"

Roderick MacKinnon
"for structural and mechanistic studies of ion channels"


2002 Physiology or Medicine Sydney Brenner, H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston
"for their discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'"


1998 Physiology or Medicine Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro and Ferid Murad
"for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system"

1997 Physiology or Medicine Stanley B. Prusiner
"for his discovery of Prions - a new biological principle of infection"

1997 Chemistry Paul D. Boyer and John E. Walker
"for their elucidation of the enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)"

Jens C. Skou
"for the first discovery of an ion-transporting enzyme, Na+, K+ -ATPase"

1996 Physiology or Medicine Peter C. Doherty and Rolf M. Zinkernagel
"for their discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell mediated immune defence"


1994 Physiology or Medicine Alfred G. Gilman and Martin Rodbell
"for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells"

1993 Physiology or Medicine Richard J. Roberts and Phillip A. Sharp
"for their discoveries of split genes"

1992 Physiology or Medicine Edmond H. Fischer and Edwin G. Krebs
"for their discoveries concerning reversible protein phosphorylation as a biological regulatory mechanism"

1989 Physiology or Medicine J. Michael Bishop and Harold E. Varmus
"for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes"


1989 Chemistry Sidney Altman and Thomas R. Cech
"for their discovery of catalytic properties of RNA"

1988 Physiology or Medicine Sir James W. Black, Gertrude B. Elion and George H. Hitchings
"for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment"


1988 Chemistry Johann Deisenhofer, Robert Huber and Hartmut Michel
"for the determination of the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction centre"

1987 Physiology or Medicine Susumu Tonegawa
"for his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity"

1986 Physiology or Medicine Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini
"for their discoveries of growth factors"

1984 Physiology or Medicine Niels K. Jerne, Georges J.F. Köhler and César Milstein
"for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies"

1983 Physiology or Medicine Barbara McClintock
"for her discovery of mobile genetic elements"

1982 Physiology or Medicine Sune K. Bergström, Bengt I. Samuelsson and John R. Vane
"for their discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances"`

1982 Chemistry Aaron Klug
"for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes"

1980 Physiology or Medicine Baruj Benacerraf, Jean Dausset and George D. Snell
"for their discoveries concerning genetically determined structures on the cell surface that regulate immunological reactions"


1980 Chemistry Paul Berg
"for his fundamental studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids, with particular regard to recombinant-DNA"

Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger
"for their contributions concerning the determination of base sequences in nucleic acids"

1978 Physiology or Medicine Werner Arber, Daniel Nathans and Hamilton O. Smith
"for the discovery of restriction enzymes and their application to problems of molecular genetics"


1978 Chemistry Peter D. Mitchell
"for his contribution to the understanding of biological energy transfer through the formulation of the chemiosmotic theory

1975 Physiology or Medicine David Baltimore, Renato Dulbecco and Howard Martin Temin
"for their discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell"


1972 Physiology or Medicine Gerald M. Edelman and Rodney R. Porter
"for their discoveries concerning the chemical structure of antibodies"

1972 Chemistry Christian B. Anfinsen
"for his work on ribonuclease, especially concerning the connection between the amino acid sequence and the biologically active conformation"

Stanford Moore and William H. Stein
"for their contribution to the understanding of the connection between chemical structure and catalytic activity of the active centre of the ribonuclease molecule"

1971 Physiology or Medicine Earl W. Sutherland, Jr.
"for his discoveries concerning the mechanisms of the action of hormones"

1968 Physiology or Medicine Robert W. Holley, Har Gobind Khorana and Marshall W. Nirenberg
"for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis"

1967 Physiology or Medicine Ragnar Granit, Haldan Keffer Hartline and George Wald
"for their discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye"

1965 Physiology or Medicine François Jacob, André Lwoff and Jacques Monod
"for their discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis"

1964 Chemistry Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin
"for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances"

1962 Physiology or Medicine Francis Harry Compton Crick, James Dewey Watson and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins
"for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material"

1962 Chemistry Max Ferdinand Perutz and John Cowdery Kendrew
"for their studies of the structures of globular proteins"



1961 Chemistry Melvin Calvin
"for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants"

1959 Physiology or Medicine Severo Ochoa and Arthur Kornberg
"for their discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid"


1958 Chemistry Frederick Sanger
"for his work on the structure of proteins, especially that of insulin"

1957 Chemistry Lord (Alexander R.) Todd
"for his work on nucleotides and nucleotide co-enzymes"

1955 Chemistry Vincent du Vigneaud
"for his work on biochemically important sulphur compounds, especially for the first synthesis of a polypeptide hormone"

1954 Physiology or Medicine John Franklin Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller and Frederick Chapman Robbins
"for their discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue"

1954 Chemistry Linus Carl Pauling
"for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances"

1953 Physiology or Medicine Hans Adolf Krebs
"for his discovery of the citric acid cycle"

Fritz Albert Lipmann
"for his discovery of co-enzyme A and its importance for intermediary metabolism"


1952 Physiology or Medicine Selman Abraham Waksman
"for his discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis"

1950 Physiology or Medicine Edward Calvin Kendall, Tadeus Reichstein and Philip Showalter Hench
"for their discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects"

1947 Physiology or Medicine Carl Ferdinand Cori and Gerty Theresa Cori, née Radnitz
"for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen"

Bernardo Alberto Houssay
"for his discovery of the part played by the hormone of the anterior pituitary lobe in the metabolism of sugar"

1945 Physiology or Medicine Sir Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Howard Walter Florey
"for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases"

1930 Physiology or Medicine Karl Landsteiner
"for his discovery of human blood groups"

1923 Physiology or Medicine Frederick Grant Banting and John James Rickard Macleod
"for the discovery of insulin"

Method-related Nobel Prizes

Several awards have recognized the methods and techniques that enable structural biology research.

Year Category Prize
2017 Chemistry Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank, Richard Henderson
"for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution"
2013 Chemistry Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel
"for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems"
2002 Chemistry "for the development of methods for identification and structure analyses of biological macromolecules" with one half jointly to John B. Fenn and Koichi Tanaka "for their development of soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules" and the other half to Kurt Wüthrich "for his development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for determining the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules in solution"
1991 Chemistry Richard R. Ernst
"for his contributions to the development of the methodology of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy"
1986 Physics Ernst Ruska
"for his fundamental work in electron optics, and for the design of the first electron microscope"
Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer "for their design of the scanning tunneling microscope"
1985 Chemistry Herbert A. Hauptman and Jerome Karle
"for their outstanding achievements in the development of direct methods for the determination of crystal structures"
1982 Chemistry Aaron Klug
"for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes"
1946 Chemistry James Batcheller Sumner
"for his discovery that enzymes can be crystallized"

John Howard Northrop and Wendell Meredith Stanley
"for their preparation of enzymes and virus proteins in a pure form"
1915 Physics Sir William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg
"for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays"
1914 Physics Max von Laue
"for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals"
1901 Physics Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him"