Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka win 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

by | Oct 10, 2012

Protein studies with implications for drug design win Nobel Prize for US-based chemists.

Robert J. Lefkowitz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center and Brian K. Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine have won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for studies of g-protein-coupled receptors, key for communication between eukaryotic cells and the outside world.

Their work, beginning originally in 1968, has over the course of the last four decades successfully identified the structure of this key protein and helped to understand exactly how it functions in the body.  While their work began with radiation studies, it is now at the stage of obtaining actual images – just last year, Kobilka and his research team successfully captured one of these receptor proteins at the precise moment of activation.

Of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry – around half of all current medications achieve their effect through GPCR – better understanding of the process by which these proteins are bound and modified will enable the design and creation of more selective drugs, better suited to treat specific conditions while avoiding serious side affects.

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