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Nobel Prizes Highlight the Importance of Public Funding in Advancing Research

“The Nobel Prize is a global icon, and the annual awards are an invitation to the public to pause, celebrate, and reflect on how scientific research benefits the world by accelerating human progress,” said Mary Woolley, Research!America president and CEO. “The Nobel Prize announcements also highlight the importance of sustained federal investments in basic research as a catalyst for new discoveries that benefit us all.” 

Nobel Prize in Chemistry recipients Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, and K. Barry Sharpless, PhD, are both recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Bertozzi has received continuous NIH funding since 1999, pivotal to her groundbreaking accomplishments. Sharpless has received near-continuous funding from the NIH since 1975; he is also the recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for work which also had significant NIH funding. To date, 172 NIH-supported researchers have received Nobel prizes for Physiology or Medicine; Chemistry; Physics; and Economic Sciences. 

Federal funding for the breakthroughs of Bertozzi and Sharpless was also provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF also supported the groundbreaking work of Nobel Prize in Physics recipient Anton Zeilinger, PhD. 

“These giants of science have advanced our understanding of the world in new and profound ways that speak to the role of scientific discovery to advance and improve the human condition. It is a testament to the necessity and essential value of basic research which may not show immediate relevance but can transform our understanding and lay the groundwork for progress against disease and other threats to our well-being,” said Woolley.  

2022 Nobel Prize Awardees 

The 2022 Nobel Prize award announcements are ongoing this week, with announcements still to come for Literature, Peace, and Economic Sciences. The announcements made so far speak to the imagination, ingenuity, and determination of gifted researchers who have advanced the fields of Chemistry, Physics, and Medicine. 

  • 2022 Nobel awardees in Chemistry – Carolyn R. Bertozzi of Stanford University in California; K. Barry Sharpless of Scripps Research in California; and Morten Meldal of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark – are recognized “for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry.” These advances make chemistry far more functional, simplifying the process of building complex molecules used to develop pharmaceuticals, map DNA, create new materials, explore cells, and track biological processes.
     2022 Nobel awardees in Physics – Alain Aspect of Université Paris-Saclay and École Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France; John F. Clauser of J.F. Clauser & Assoc., in California; and Anton Zeilinger of University of Vienna, Austria – are recognized “for their experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science.” Their research is foundational in providing evidence of newly emergent quantum technologies, which are driving research in “quantum computers, quantum networks, and secure quantum encrypted communications.”
     2022 Nobel awardee in Medicine – Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany is recognized “for his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution.” Pääbo sequenced the genome of the Neanderthal and discovered a previously unknown hominin. His work gave rise to the new traced the discipline of paleogenomics, which traces the “ancient flow of genes to present-day humans,” which will help us understand human evolution, migration, physiology, and what makes us uniquely human.  

“We congratulate all the awardees, thank them for their service to humankind, and look forward to the many ways they will inspire future generations to explore, discover, and innovate,” said Woolley.