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Scientists win chemistry Nobel

Wuethrich is a chemist with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich
Wuethrich is a chemist with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- American, Japanese and Swiss scientists have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

John Fenn of the United States, Japan's Koichi Tanaka and Kurt Wuethrich of Switzerland received the award on Wednesday for developing methods of identifying and analysing large biological molecules, such as proteins.

"Their work has paved the way for the future finding of a cure for cancer," said Bengt Norden, chairman of the Nobel committee for chemistry.

"Without it, there would be no modern pharmaceuticals."

The work developed by the trio, who will share the $1 million prize, could lead to new drugs to tackle disease and has shown promise in early diagnosis of ovarian, breast and prostate cancer.

Tanaka, 43, is the youngest chemistry laureate since 1967 and the second Japanese Nobel winner this year following Masatoshi Koshiba, one of the physics laureates.

Wuethrich, 64, a scientist with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the fifth Swiss chemistry laureate, and the first since 1991.

Fenn, 85, who works at the Virginia Commonwealth University, said: "Can you imagine? This happens to so few people.

"So many other scientists dream about it. The odds are one in 100,000 or one in a million."

In making the award, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said: "Chemists can now rapidly and reliably identify what proteins a sample contains.

"They can also produce three-dimensional images of protein molecules in solution. Hence, scientists can both 'see' the proteins and understand how they function in the cells."

For the second year in a row, the academy decided to award the chemistry and physics honours separately.

The physics award, announced on Tuesday, went to Raymond Davis, 87, and Riccardo Giacconi, 71, of the United States and Masatoshi Koshiba, 76, of Japan. (Full story)

They share the $1 million prize for pioneering work on astrophysics leading to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources, the academy said in its citation.

On Monday, two Britons and an American won the Nobel Prize for medicine for discoveries that have shed light on diseases such as AIDS as well as strokes. (Full story)

Britons Sydney Brenner and John E. Sulston and American H. Robert Horvitz received the award for discoveries into the "genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death," a statement from the Nobel office said.

The economics prize, also announced on Wednesday, went to two Americans. (Full story)

The winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for literature will be revealed on Thursday.

The winner of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize -- the only one not awarded in Sweden -- will be announced Friday in Oslo, Norway.

The only public hints are for the peace prize.

Among the nominees are believed to be Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has sought to unify his country after the hard-line Taliban was ousted by U.S.-led airstrikes, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the Salvation Army and the U.S. Peace Corps.

U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were nominated for leading the war against terrorism, The Associated Press reports, but are now seen as unlikely winners with the possibility of military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

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