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2014 Chemistry Nobel Predictions

Well, we’re getting close to the Nobel season, so it’s time for the yearly “Who’s going to win?” post. According to Thomson Reuters, some favorites are Tan/van Slyke for organic light-emitting diodes, Moad/Rizzardo/Thang for RAFT polymerization, and Kresge/Ryoo/Stucky for mesoporous materials. You can see a real materials-science drift to those picks, which would indicate that the Thomson-Reuters folks think that we’re not going to get another that’s-not-chemistry-that’s-biology award this year (nor one in analytical chemistry).
But if they’re wrong about that, there are several things that shade over into molecular biology that are queued up. Some sort of prize for nuclear receptors would be plausible, and the CRISPR gene editing technology is surely in line for one. Another surely-that-will-win technique is optogenetics, the photoswitchable gene regulation method that’s being used all over biology. They could always give it to Venter (et al.) for gene sequencing, or to Bruce Ames for the Ames test. As usual, these could end up in chemistry, or over in the physiology/medicine prize. In the zone where analytical chemistry blends into physics, there’s single-molecule-spectroscopy and SPR. I don’t see a flat-out organic chemistry prize in the works, but Sharpless is still plausible as part of a click-chemistry/chemical biology sort of award.
Other predictions can be found at Wavefunction’s blog (he has a different top pick) and Everyday Scientist. Add your own guesses to the comments section, and we’ll see how wrong we all can be!

70 comments on “2014 Chemistry Nobel Predictions”

  1. a. nonymaus says:

    I’m perennially hoping for Graetzel, possibly a prize shared with Goodenough. Gray could get it for electron transfer, but he deserves it for ligand field theory. Optogenetics seems like a better fit for the physiology/medicine prize than chemistry.

  2. Anon^3 says:

    May as well add Matyjaszewski for ATRP if RAFT is going

  3. Anonymous says:

    How about Broderick for studies on human stupidity and recklessness?

  4. oldnuke says:

    @3 No, awards for stupidity are usually made in the form of the Peace Prize (by those crazy Norwegians).

  5. Anonymous says:

    No more momentum for Horwich and Hartl?

  6. Anonymous says:

    At least we know who will not win this year.
    Those predicted by Reuters this year. Reutuers has excellent records on that.

  7. Justin Peukon says:

    I find a bit pretentious the Thomson Reuters page, which claims “Thomson Reuters Predicts 2014 Nobel Laureates, Researchers Forecast for Nobel Recognition”. It’s a bet, not a prediction.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @6: My thoughts as well! That being said, I haven’t noticed any hugely significant advances in the field since early discovery. Better understanding of substrate profiling/recognition and druggability may be required before Horwich/Hartl/etc. get the honor.

  9. Harry Hirsch says:

    It’s about time a solid-state got the prize again. How about Whittingham?

  10. Erebus says:

    FFS they should give it to Djerassi already. Hasn’t it been quite long enough? And he’s had a far greater impact than most of the other people who seem to be poplar predictions. He cut his teeth on some of the hardest and most important problems that medicinal chemistry had to offer at the time, and his output was immense. They should give him the prize while they still can.

  11. newnickname says:

    Akira Fujishima / Kenichi Honda. “The photocatalytic properties of titanium dioxide were discovered by Akira Fujishima in 1967 and published in 1972. The process on the surface of the titanium dioxide was called the Honda-Fujishima effect.”
    The discovery was serendipitous, observed by grad student Fujishima when he was supposed to be seeing something else. Instead of a beat-down, Honda allowed further investigation.

  12. Anonymous says:

    You are wrong about CRISPR. Certainly a neat new approach to gene editing, but homologous recombination in human cells has been going on since 1993 using various techniques. This is just the newest, not necessarily the best. But definitely the one that is currently the hottest.
    Vogelstein will win one soon for cancer genetics, possibly with Al Knudsen (two hit hypothesis) and possibly one other (maybe Weinberg).

  13. MLB pitcher and Medicinal Chemist says:

    Why not talk about whose going to win the Cy Young. Dr. Derek Lowe wasn’t good enough to win one.

  14. Chemicalsinurfood says:

    Ya’ll be jelly because you know its gonna be me!
    -The Foodbabe

  15. Anonymous says:

    I would be the chemical synthesis of DNA, but SPPS already got one.

  16. anonymous says:

    How about David Allis (histone code) and Stuart Schreiber (alternative signalling hypothesis) for epigenetics?

  17. CAprof says:

    Reminder: Don’t FRET about those chemistry prizes being “given away” to those pesky biologists. Looking back at the list, it’s easy to see that chemistry Nobel prizes are given for very mechanistic work – people win them by studying molecules. Lefkowitz and Kobilka in 2012: GPCRs, specifically the structures and molecular mechanisms – not the fact that they exist and are important for biology. Ditto for the ribosome in 2009. Double-ditto for Kornberg in 2006 for his work on the structures and mechanisms of Pol2 and transcription. The ubiquitin-proteasome system in 2004 is about covalent chemistry and primary metabolism – not biological phenomenology. Same for channels in 2003 and for ATP synthesis in 1997. These are not prizes for biology. They are prizes for molecules! Structure and function! Chemists should celebrate these prizes – not grump around that someone is stealing their Nobel prizes!!! There’s plenty of room for success in our business.

  18. Derek Freyberg says:

    @1, 12, 13:
    I doubt that Gray, Djerassi, or Fujishima/Honda will win, if only because they haven’t yet and there are a lot of people who’ve done exciting work more recently. I think (and I haven’t gone through and worked the numbers, so someone is welcome to point out that I’m wrong) that the “news cycle” on Nobels is shorter than in the past.

  19. Anon says:

    I think that Sharpless for Click (with others) is a good clean chemistry prize.
    I can’t see Gray getting it, because I think the other REAL important figures (from a bioinorganic point of view) are deceased and any co-candidates are much weaker chemically (big fish in a small pond).
    CRISPER is a slam dunk, but it will be a few years before the prize goes out.

  20. Anon says:

    Sharpless, Bertozzi and Huisgen for click chemistry?

  21. KSH says:

    Totally agree! It is hard to think of anyone who deserves it more than Djerassi. Really don’t get why he didn’t receive a long rime ago.

  22. KSH says:

    Totally agree! It is hard to think of anyone who deserves it more than Djerassi. Really don’t get why he didn’t receive a long rime ago.

  23. KSH says:

    Totally agree! It is hard to think of anyone who deserves it more than Djerassi. Really don’t get why he didn’t receive a long rime ago.

  24. newnickname says:

    @20 “if only because they haven’t [won] yet”: Not a rebuttal but Shimomura won for GFP even tho’ it took many years to make it useful via genetics (Prasher, Chalfie, Tsien).

  25. Sili says:

    I’d love to see Djerassi (or anyone for that matter) get Peace for oral contraceptives.
    But then I’d also like to get a pony.

  26. Sili says:

    And since it’s apparently not clear why Djerassi will never win: Catholics and other conservatives.
    FFS – IVF got the price in medicine. In a world with 7 Gpeople. (Y

  27. anon says:

    @22 Huisgen is 94. They better hurry on that Nobel.

  28. HFM says:

    CRISPR could win eventually, but not yet, and not in Chemistry. You’d also be hard-pressed to pick three winners; there’s the discovering lab, which didn’t know what they had, and the half-dozen other labs which jumped in simultaneously.
    Optogenetics might well get the Medicine prize, but I really don’t see where it makes the Chemistry list either.
    I can see a materials science win (OLEDs, batteries, etc), but that’s so far from my area that I’m clueless as to who deserves it.
    And I second #27 re: Djerassi, the Peace prize, and free ponies.

  29. anon says:

    I think Prof. Alan Davison deserves a prize too for Technetium (99mTc) sestamibi. Anyone agrees with me?

  30. HT says:

    CRISPR is definitely hot, but the world should wait a little longer to see if it deserves a Nobel alone or share it with some other technologies.
    Can’t make up my mind about Chemistry or Medicine for it though … maybe it depends on how the applications turn out?

  31. Anonymous BMS Researcher says:

    Having met Venter a few times, I really hope he never gets a Nobel — that would cause massive overexpression of the EGO locus, which in his case already shows plenty of constitutive expression.

  32. Special Guest Lecturer says:

    I continue to pick Grant Willson and Jean Frechet for photolithography. Much more important than RAFT or ATRP.
    Venter couldn’t have sequenced the genome without it, among other societal impacts…

  33. HI says:

    I wasn’t the only crazy person who thought about pairing David Allis and Stuart Schreiber! Of course if Schreiber wins, it won’t be for epigenetics but for more broader contributions on chemical biology or something.
    I’m not sure if chemists here would approve a chemistry prize to Allis, but I think there is a possibility.

  34. sepisp says:

    #28: Sweden isn’t a Catholic country and there is no political force to prevent the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences from selecting whoever they want. The current Nobel Committee for Chemistry is, as far as I understand, completely Swedish, or if not, Scandinavian. Experience shows that they are actually quite “liberal” (if using the American term, which would be an anatopism in Sweden). For instance, they continued to give prizes to Jews throughout the Second World War despite certain pressures to the contrary.
    I’d be happy if they nominated someone else than another biologist or another reaction mechanist or syntheticist.

  35. anonymous says:

    Schreiber will not win for the histone code. Granted he identified the first HDAC, but then moved on to other things. Allis spent his career studying the influence of histone modifications on gene transcription. Allis could be paired with some of the luminaries in the DNA methylation field like Baylin and Jones or Marks and Breslow for pushing HDAC inhibitors into the clinic.

  36. anonymous says:

    @37 Not proposing Schreiber for the histone code when in fact he opposed it (Cell. 2002 Dec 13;111(6):771-8), but rather as a counterpoint to Allis. Ultimately the two opposing views have both served to advance our understanding of transcriptional control at the level of chromatin modifications. Clearly others have contributed to the field as well.

  37. anonymous says:

    @38 one paper and a commentary deserve a Nobel? As far as I’m concerned Schreiber’s commentary was essentially a restatement of the histone code hypothesis.

  38. Magrinho says:

    If Russell Marker didn’t get the Nobel Prize for oral contraceptives then Djerassi shouldn’t get a sniff. Read your history folks. Self promotion doesn’t get you a NP.

  39. Cato the Elder says:

    @39 Technically Barton got his for that one Experentia paper

  40. Anonymous says:

    Agree with @34

  41. Sisyphus says:

    Anthony Arduengo, Guy Bertrand and Ron Breslow for stable carbenes.

  42. Anonymous says:

    A BCR-ABL/Gleevec prize might be expected soon based on Lasker and Japan prizes for Druker, Lydon and possible Sawyers. Rowley too if she had not passed.
    Given David Allis’s receipt of the Japan prize, this may indicate he is in the lead for an ‘epigenetics prize’. Given the sustained and deep contribution of others on this area, Schreiber would not be expected.
    Just FYI, many histone modifications are not maintained through DNA synthesis and cell division so they are not technically ‘epigenetic’.

  43. HI says:

    I’m not comfortable using the word “epigenetics,” either, but I have used it as a shorthand for histone modifications/chromatin biology.
    There are others who contributed in this area, but David Allis seems like the only shoo-in to me. (Thomson Reuters also names Michael Grunstein, but I doubt it.) On the other hand, I don’t think Allis will be the sole winner. I think he will share it with someone who works (primarily) in a different field. I thought Schreiber could be that someone because of the overlap.
    In other words, I don’t think Schreiber will win for HDAC alone. It was mainly his student’s work anyway, wasn’t it? However, is it inconceivable that he wins for some combinations of his contributions? But I have seen some negative sentiments to Schreiber expressed on this blog before.

  44. anonymous says:

    I also try to stay out of the semantic battles over ‘epigenetic’ as well; not worth all of the effort that many have spent in the dispute, but lacking a single word alternative (versus the longer histone modification/chromatin biology, etc) sometimes causes a slip. Finding the right ‘partner’ for Allis is not easily done, although I agree that the likelihood of a sole winner in this space is low. I’d proposed Schreiber but could easily see others depending upon the aspect of chromatin biology chosen for recognition.

  45. Anonymous says:

    40) Self promotion doesn’t get you an NP? really? Peace Prize 2009 anyone?

  46. ZipRxn says:

    Akira Endo for the discovery of the first statin. He made a huge impact on mankind.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Someone mentioned Matyjaszewski earlier – the problem with that is you’ll have to give the prize to Sawamoto too given that they both discovered ATRP independently at the same time. And for RAFT, there are conveniently three people to give the award to.
    Don’t like the idea of ‘click’ chemistry getting a Nobel personally. Essentially it’s just a label given to some old reactions, nothing new really.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I think KCN will get this year.

  49. sepisp says:

    #47: The Peace Prize is given with a totally different mechanism and for very different reasons. It’s the Norwegian Parliament, not the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. And, in politics, self-promotion is a given.

  50. Spiny Norman says:

    “How about David Allis (histone code).”
    That would be just great, if there were a histone code.

  51. Spiny Norman says:

    “How about David Allis (histone code).”
    That would be just great, if there were a histone code.

  52. HI says:

    @52, 53
    I know where Mark Ptashne is coming from and I agree with many of the things he wrote. The word epigenetics is often used in imprecise and overly broad ways. “Histone code” remains only a hypothesis that is quite contentious. We have already touched on those topics in this thread. But if you get too caught up in the semantics, you can lose sight of the impacts of the paper from the Allis’ lab on HAT and the paper from the Schreiber’s lab on HDAC both published in 1996.
    There were people who were interested in the connection between chromatin and transcription. Vincent Allfrey (deceased), Michael Grunstein, Harold Weintraub (deceased), Roger Kornberg (Nobel 2006), and Jerry Workman are some of the examples. But chromatin was considered somewhat boring and a lot of excitement was coming from studies of eukaryotic transcription machineries from people like Bob Roeder. (His work is hugely important, too. But he didn’t get the prize when Kornberg was awarded in 2006).
    The 1996 papers really changed the landscape. Yeast homologs of the HAT and the HDAC identified by Allis’ and Schreiber’s groups were known regulators of transcription. That showed the connection between histone modifications and transcription. Schreiber moved on to do other things (as he had worked on other things before this). But Allis remained a key figure in the subsequent developments. So, to me, Allis is someone who had a huge impact, even if you may quibble about “epegenetics” and “histone code.”

  53. Anonymous says:

    I find it intriguing that know one is talking about Schultz this year – possible dark horse?

  54. Anonymous says:

    Gerald Hart for the discovery of the O-GlcNAc modification will absolutely have to be in this discussion in the near future. It’s revolutionized our entire understanding of how virtually every single signaling cascade, epigenetics, gene expression, and almost every aspect of protein physiology works.

  55. Organocatalysis says:

    DMac for discovering that you don’t have to be first, you just have to use the most buzzwords

  56. A. Wallace says:

    For a chromatin Nobel: would Tim Richmond with the nucleosome structure be a contender? For me, it is one of the most beautiful and useful macromolecular structures out there. I would argue it had and has more (or broader) impact than e.g. the ribosome structures.

  57. The Iron Chemist says:

    @21: Regarding bioinorganic, the other two logical candidates would be Dick Holm and Steve Lippard. Both are rightly considered integral figures in the field and are still on this mortal plane. Neither would be considered “a big fish in a small pond” unless you consider the entirety of inorganic chemistry and large chunks of biochemistry a small pond.

  58. HI says:

    It is a very nice work. But I believe Aaron Klug won the prize in 1982 for contributions in structural biology including the (low resolution) structure of the nucleosome. In fact, Tim Richmond is from Klug’s lab and published a 7 angstrom resolution structure of the nucleosome in 1984 with Klug.

  59. pflotter says:

    sharpless, bertozzi, grimster for click

  60. HI says:

    @58, 60
    But they do like structures and it was a structure that indeed had a pretty big impact. And there is a potential female co-recipient (Luger). But chemists won’t like it. 🙂

  61. bah says:

    They will give it to a male professor in MIT/Harvard/Oxford/etc. who has certain pedigree such as being a Mosaic confessor and having another Nobelist as doctoral advisor. Connections, more connections and self-promotion. Physics Nobels are at least on interesting topics, but for chemistry, mostly it’s “meh”.

  62. swamy says:

    Prof. Deevi Basavaiah should be given the Chemistry Nobel prize for his outstanding work on th Baylis-Hillman reaction.

  63. chris elliott says:

    Well, the Medicine one went to a hero – someone doing physiological recording from a free range mouse when I was all on to get it working in a restrained insect. Much Kudos to them!

  64. peter says:

    they should only award white European.

  65. Goblinshark17 says:

    I agree with the anonymous poster above: I predict in Chemistry (a few hours before the announcement) Peter G. Schultz, for expanding the genetic code to include unnatural, lab-synthesized amino acids, which can then be genetically programmed to incorporate into any desired site in any protein of interest in vivo. ALSO, for developing many methods in combinatorial chemistry, screenable molecular libraries, high-throughput chemistry.
    Schultz won the Wolf Prize in 1994 for catalytic antibodies.

  66. Some idiot says:

    Or option (d)… None of the above…
    Now it has been announced!

  67. Justin Peucon says:

    Well… I would recommend Thomson Reuters to STOP their predictions, which systematically fail. It should be very disappointing for these researchers to appear on the Thomson predictions, since that means they will NOT be awarded the prize.

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