2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded for discoveries in DNA repair.

Scientists Tomas Lindahl and Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar were named the winners of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry at a news conference in Stockholm. Their work on the mechanisms used by cells to repair damaged DNA has netted the winners one third of eight million Swedish kronor (£634,000; $970,000) each.

 Nobel prize chemistry 2015

According to the Associated Press, “Tomas Lindahl was eating his breakfast in England on Wednesday when the call came — ostensibly, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It occurred to him that this might be a hoax, but then the caller started speaking Swedish.”

“It was a surprise. I know that over the years I’ve occasionally been considered for a prize, but so have hundreds of other people. I feel lucky and proud to be selected today,” said Tomas Lindahl, from the UK’s Francis Crick Institute, on receipt of the Prize.

In the 1970s, Lindahl countered conventional wisdom that DNA was stable by showing that the molecule actually decayed at a surprisingly fast rate. As a result he went on to discover a mechanism called base extension repair, which counteracts this degradation. Sancar identified a different DNA-mending process called nucleotide extension repair, while Modrich demonstrated how cells reduce the number of errors that can occur when DNA is replicated. 

In a press statement the Nobel Committee explained their decision: “Their work has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments.”

DNA has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been a hot topic for the Noble Prizes this week. Earlier this week, as Nobel season kicked off the Prize for Physiology and Medicine, and we pondered whether CRISPR had a shot at the chemistry Prize. Here at FLG we are always thrilled to see the importance of genetics and its impact on medicine being recognised and celebrated. 

More on these topics