2020 Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prizes are awarded every October, recognizing outstanding contributions to humanity in chemistry, literature, peace, physics and physiology or medicine; there’s also a prize in economic sciences. Here’s a round-up of this year’s winners in the sciences and some of their Annual Reviews papers.

This year’s prize in physiology or medicine was awarded jointly to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for their discovery of the hepatitis C virus, which causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world. For a deep dive into the research, see: “Turning Hepatitis C into a Real Virus” in the Annual Review of Microbiology; “Interferon-Stimulated Genes: A Complex Web of Host Defenses” in the Annual Review of Immunology; and “New Methods in Tissue Engineering: Improved Models for Viral Infection” in the Annual Review of Virology.

The chemistry prize was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the discovery and development of the genetic scissors called CRISPR-Cas9, which allow researchers to precisely alter the DNA of animals, plants and microorganisms. For more of their research, see some of Dr. Doudna’s papers in the Annual Review of Biophysics: “CRISPR-Cas9 Structures and Mechanisms” and “Molecular Mechanisms of RNA Interference.”

This year’s prize in physics was awarded for work on black holes. Half of the award went to Roger Penrose for demonstrating that black holes were mathematically possible, and the other half was jointly awarded to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their discovery of a massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. To dive into the research, see “The Evolution of the Star-Forming Interstellar Medium Across Cosmic Time” and “Extragalactic Results from the Infrared Space Observatory” in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The 2020 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was awarded to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, both of Stanford University, for their work on how auctions work, as well as their development of new types of auctions that have maximized revenue for sellers while saving buyer and taxpayer money. For more on their research, read Dr. Milgrom’s 2019 article “Auction Market Design: Recent Innovations” in the Annual Review of Economics.

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