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Headlines Published on 09 December 2005

Title Nobel excellence in EU research projects

German scientist Theodor Hänsch will receive his Nobel Prize tomorrow at the Award Ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. His research group at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics is also involved in the EU-funded research project, Conquest, studying quantum phenomena. And many more Nobel Laureates are teaming up with other European researchers to do joint research in current EU-funded projects.

Industrialist Alfred Nobel made arrangements in his will for the setting up of the Nobel Prizes. © The Nobel Foundation
Industrialist Alfred Nobel made arrangements in his will for the setting up of the Nobel Prizes.
© The Nobel Foundation
The Nobel Prize is an international award given yearly since 1901 for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. In 1968, a further prize in economic sciences was added. Prize-winners are announced in October every year. But they receive their awards – a sum of money, a medal and a diploma – on 10 December to mark the anniversary of Nobel’s death. This year, Europeans scooped up two of the most coveted science prizes in chemistry and physics.

Theodor Hänsch will share the physics prize with Americans Roy Glauber and John Hall. Frenchman Yves Chauvin of the Institut Français du Pétrole also shares his prize in chemistry with Americans Robert Grubbs and Richard Schrock. Meanwhile, Australians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren wrestled the medicine prize away from the Americans this year. But EU scientists’ strong performance in the medical and physiology field has not gone unnoticed. Indeed, Nobel Laureates are among many other excellent European researchers putting their skills and knowledge into cross-European research activities.

For example, there are seven former Nobel Prize-winners in medicine or physiology currently involved in projects funded by the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). These range from a project using mouse models to understand synaptic physiology and pathology in the brain (EU-Synapses, €8 million in funding) to the Network of European Neuroscience Institutes (Eninet, nearly €1.3 million) – both of which include the German Nobel Laureate Erwin Neher.

Another FP6-funded project, called ZF-Models, features the German Nobel Laureate Christianne Nusslein-Volhard. The €12 million Integrated Project (IP) is using zebra fish models to study human development and disease.

A testament to nobler causes
The Swiss Laureate Rolf Zinkernagel is involved in both an IP called Compuvac, which is developing rational designs and standardised evaluation techniques for novel genetic vaccines, and a Network of Excellence, called Mugen, which uses functional genomics to investigate the complexity of human immunological disease.

British scientist and Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt is working together with colleagues from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and the UK on a combined genomics, proteomics and chemical biology approach to regulating the mitosis (cell replication) of phosphorylation. The Mitocheck project is earmarked to receive over €8.5 million of FP6 funding. An American Laureate Stanley Prusiner is also participating in an EU Specific Targeted Research Project (STREP) called AntePrion which has some €2.5 million to develop a pre-clinical blood test for prion diseases affecting the brain, such as BSE.

Scientists involved in FP6 projects have also featured strongly among the list of Nobel Laureates in chemistry. The English chemistry Laureate in 1997 John Walker is participating in two EU IPs: the European membrane protein consortium (E-MEP, with over €10.3 million) and EUmitocombat (nearly €8.2 million), which is seeking rational treatment strategies against mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation disorders. German chemist and Laureate Harmut Michel is also involved in E-MEP. Another Chemistry Laureate Kurt Wüthrich from Switzerland is taking part in Upman, a € 1.9 million STREP aimed at understanding protein misfolding and aggregation by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).

Lastly, Israeli chemist and Laureate Aaron Ceichanover will take part in an EU network, currently under negotiation, called Rubicon which would have €12 million at its disposal to learn more about the role of ubiquitin modifiers in cell regulation.   

Having a Nobel Laureate in the group contributes more than just know-how and reputation, it can also provide a role model to younger researchers in the EU-funded project who may one day lead a team of their own to world-changing scientific discoveries. 

Source:  European Commission, Nobel Foundation

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More information:

  • Upman (on Swiss Federal Institute of Technology site)

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