Stanford professor wins Nobel Prize in chemistry

October 10, 2012 8:27:08 PM PDT
A middle-of-the-night call from Stockholm, Sweden brought news that a Stanford University researcher was one of two recipients of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. The work he does could lead to cells being more receptive to drugs.

Congratulatory emails have been pouring in ever since Dr. Brian Kobilka received the call from Stockholm at 2:20 a.m.

He is Stanford's 27th recipient of the Nobel Prize.

"I don't think it means that my work is necessarily better than other peoples' work, but I do good work, and I think I got some recognition for it," Kobilka said.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry recognizes his work studying G protein coupled receptors.

"We see using G protein coupled receptors; we perceive odors using G protein coupled receptors, so they're important proteins that transmit information from outside the cell inside the cell," Kobilka said.

Those receptors interact with about 40 percent of the medications we take.

What Kobilka and his lab team have discovered could lead to new drugs with increased effectiveness.

"The field has basically a renaissance and there's all these new possibilities in the field; I'm very excited about the prospects going forward," Dr. Aashish Manglik said.

Kobilka trained to become a cardiologist, focusing on patient care. However, his wife, also a physician, saw in him a curiosity that drew him to lab research.

"You want to get answers, and I think that's why he's got the perseverance to stay with this receptor," Tong Sun Kobilka said.

Kobilka will share the $1.2 million prize money with another researcher at Duke University, where he once studied. He joked that Stanford was the only place that offered him a job.

"The recognition is not what he does this for, we feel like he deserves it so much, which is why I get a little emotional because I'm just so proud of him," his daughter Megan Kobilka said.

Kobilka's research will, of course, continue. He just applied for a new research grant and says that he thinks the Nobel Prize might give him a leg-up.


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