Nobel Prize 2016 : Chemistry Prize could go to gene-editing, new elements or rechargeable batteries

The Nobel Chemistry Prize is to be announced on Wednesday, with observers suggesting it could go to gene-editing, the invention of the rechargeable battery or the discovery of new periodic elements. Sweden’s biggest daily Dagens Nyheter tipped scientists at Russian, Japanese and US institutes that added four new elements to the periodic table: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og). John Goodenough — a 94-year-old US scientist who invented the rechargeable lithium ion battery that is present in cell phones, computers and electric cars — was another of the favourites for the honour, mentioned by Dagens Nyheter and Swedish radio SR. Also seen as Nobel-worthy was a technique known as CRISPR that can edit parts of the genome of still-developing embryos by cutting out, replacing or adding parts to the DNA sequence. It was named by influential US journal Science as 2015’s breakthrough of the year due to its potential to revolutionise health and medicine. But it could be too early for the jury to award it a Nobel this year, Dagens Nyheter noted, as a bitter patent dispute is currently being waged over who discovered it first. Sweden’s other main daily Svenska Dagbladet nonetheless also mentioned CRISPR as a possible winner. It also pointed to Hong Kong doctor Yuk-Ming Dennis Lo, the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences. Lo discovered a technique to detect chromosome abnormalities in unborn foetuses, such as Down’s Syndrome, where previous methods could cause a miscarriage. The chemistry prize is the third Nobel to be announced this week.

On Tuesday, the physics prize went to British scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz for their work in on “topology”, a highly-specialised mathematics field studying unusual phases or states of matter which may one day yield superfast and small computers.

Also mentioned are Russian activist Svetlana Gannushkina, who has championed the rights of migrants and refugees, Syria’s civil organisation of emergency responders known as the White Helmets, and Greek islanders who have come to the aid of desperate migrants. US fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent of the NSA’s surveillance programmes, has meanwhile been nominated for the third straight year. The economics prize will be announced on Monday, 10 October, and the literature prize wraps things up on 13 October. For that prize, the Swedish Academy could tap superstar novelists such as Philip Roth of the US or Haruki Murakami of Japan, or some lesser known writers such as Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse or Syrian poet Adonis. Nobel Chemistry Prize winners of the past decade. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. The first Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 1901 to Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff, of the Netherlands.

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