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Rockville, Md. (September 30, 2020)—With the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine just a few days away, several members of the American Physiological Society’s (APS) elected Council are sharing their predictions for the researchers who might receive the honor. Among the prognosticators are distinguished researchers and professors from institutions such as Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore; California State University, East Bay; Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston; Kansas State University; and Montana State University.

“Though the Nobel Prize selection process is shrouded in secrecy, discussions about who will win the prize are a great way for the physiology community to reflect on the critical significance of physiological research to today’s groundbreaking scientific and medical advances,” said APS Chief Science Officer Dennis Brown, PhD, FAPS. “Our predictions may mostly be a hunch based on top-tier science, but bragging rights certainly go to people who guess it right.”

Below are specific predictions:

  • Dennis Brown, PhD, FAPS, APS chief science officer, predicts Rutgers University researcher Evelyn Witkin, PhD, and Harvard University geneticist Stephen Elledge, PhD, for their work on DNA mutation and repair mechanisms. The pair won the prestigious Lasker Award in 2015 for this research.
  • Jason R. Carter, PhD, of Montana State University, predicts Charles Rice, PhD, of The Rockefeller University in New York and Ralf Bartenschlager, PhD, from Heidelberg University in Ohio for their work on hepatitis C.
  • Michael S. Hedrick, PhD, FAPS, of California State University, East Bay, predicts Yoshizumi Ishino, PhD, from Kyushu University in Japan for discovering CRISPR technology.
  • Timothy I. Musch, PhD, FAPS, of Kansas State University predicts Jennifer Doudna, PhD, from the University of California, Berkley, for co-founding CRISPR technology and CRISPR-Cas9.
  • Paul A. Welling, MD, of Johns Hopkins Medical School, predicts Max Dale Cooper, MD, of Emory University in Atlanta and Jacques Miller, PhD, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia for their work identifying the T and B cells, for which they were honored with the 2019 Lasker Award.

More details on these predictions

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology is a tool used for editing genomes. It allows researchers to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. “With this groundbreaking technology, researchers will be able to substitute defective genes associated with a certain disease state (like sickle cell anemia) with normal genes that would help prevent or cure the disease,” Musch said when explaining his prediction. “It would allow the medical community to modify the DNA of individuals.”

“I picked Ishino since he is often credited as being among the first to discover CRISPR technology,” Hedrick said. In addition to preventing and curing many diseases in humans and animals, “it can also be used to modify crops and potentially improve food supplies. It has already been used successfully to improve health in specific instances,” Hedrick added.

“I suggested Bartenschlager and Rice for their collective body of work on hepatitis C because it is a highly visible and impactful scientific contribution in a moment dominated by another virus and because the group was awarded the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Research Award for this work,” said Carter.

These predictions come ahead of the release of the actual winners slated for Monday, October 5. APS wishes the best of luck to all under consideration for the prize.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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