The Nobel Prize in Medicine opens the 2022 season

Stockholm (AFP) – Breast cancer treatments? Messenger RNA vaccines? Progress in disease detection? The Nobel Prize for Medicine opens the season of the famous philanthropic rewards on Monday, under the shadow of an ongoing war in Europe.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, as it is officially called, will be announced around 11:30 am (09:30 GMT) this Monday in Stockholm.

Then the Nobel Prizes for Physics will follow on Tuesday, for Chemistry on Wednesday and, the most anticipated, for Literature on Thursday and Peace on Friday, this one is announced in Oslo.

The most recently created Nobel Prize for Economics closes the 2022 season next Monday.

For the Nobel Prize in Medicine, the name of a woman circulates again, that of the American geneticist Mary-Claire King.

In 1990, she discovered a gene responsible for breast cancer, the most common malignant tumor in women.

At 76, she could be consecrated with other pioneers of a therapeutic antibody against breast cancer, her compatriot Dennis Slamon and the German Axel Ullrich, who discovered the trastuzumab treatment.

If the Nobel jury breaks with the cautious trend of enshrining old discoveries, another woman has every chance of winning it for her role in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

male domination

Consecrated for two years with almost all the great medical prizes, the American-Hungarian Katalin Kariko, long a marginalized researcher, would obtain the maximum award as a pioneer of vaccines with messenger RNA.

“Not only because of the direct benefit it brought us in the face of the pandemic, but it is the first in a series of very promising applications of this technology,” emphasizes Ulrika Björksten, head of the scientific service at Swedish public radio.

In case of prizes for the vaccines, she could be consecrated next to her American colleagues Drew Weissman and Canadian Pieter Cullis.

Last year, the award went to two Americans, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, for their discoveries about how touch works.

An award related to physiology would mean a more medical accolade this year, says David Pendlebury.

This head of the Clarivate organization has a list of several dozen Nobel candidates for scientific awards.

He’s betting on King and Slamon this year, but he’s also citing Hong Konger Yuk Ming Dennis Lo.

This pioneer implemented a non-invasive prenatal diagnosis that makes it easier to limit the use of amniosynthesis.

With this technique, a series of so-called “liquid” biopsies emerged. “With a simple blood or blood plasma sample, all kinds of possible problems or diseases can be detected,” Pendlebury said.

Male US or US-based researchers have largely dominated scientific Nobel prizes in recent decades, despite juries’ efforts to consecrate more women.

The 2021 Nobel season did not break the rule, with 12 men awarded and only one woman. All scientific awards went to men.

An anti-Putin award?

For the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, critics questioned by AFP are leaning towards a more familiar name, after two winners emerged from the shadows, the American poet Louise Glück in 2020 and the British novelist of Tanzanian origin Abdulrazak Gurnah last year.

The American Joyce Carol Oates, the French Annie Ernaux or Maryse Condé, the Russian Ludmila Ulitskaia or the Canadian Margaret Atwood would ratify the parity efforts of the jury in recent years.

On the betting sites, Frenchman Michel Houellebecq is currently the favourite. He is ahead of Salman Rushdie, the victim of an assassination attempt in August.

But it would be the peace prize that would have the most impact this year.

After having awarded the Russian journalist Dmitri Muratov with his Filipino colleague Maria Ressa, will the Norwegian committee give an anti-Putin award after the invasion of Ukraine?

Never since the Second World War has an interstate conflict been recorded so close to Oslo.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), in charge of investigating war crimes in Ukraine, as well as the International Court of Justice, also based in the Netherlands, are mentioned. As well as the imprisoned Russian opponent Alexei Navalni or the Belarusian opponent Svetlana Tijanovskaia.

In the case of a prize focused on the climate and the environment, experts cite the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, perhaps together with the British naturalist David Attenborough or activists such as the Sudanese Nisreen Elsaim and the Ghanaian Chibeze Ezekiel.


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The Nobel Prize in Medicine opens the 2022 season