STOCKHOLM: Two American scientists won the 2012 Nobel Prize for chemistry for showing how cells in the body respond to stimuli such as a rush of adrenalin, work that is helping the development of more effective drugs, the prize committee said on Wednesday.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the 8 million crown ($1.2 million) prize went to Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka for discovering the inner workings of G-protein-coupled receptors, gateways to cells that react to chemical messages.
"Around half of all medications act through these receptors, among them beta blockers, antihistamines and various kinds of psychiatric medications," the committee said.
Working out better ways to target the receptors, known as GPCRs, is an area of keen focus for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Lefkowitz told a news conference by telephone that he was asleep when the phone call came from Sweden.
"I did not hear it - I must share with you that I wear earplugs to sleep. So my wife gave me an elbow. So there it was, a total shock and surprise," he said.
Sven Lidin, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Lund University and chairman of the committee, told a news conference the discovery had been key in medical research.
"Knowing what they (the receptors) look like and how they function will provide us with the tools to make better drugs with fewer side effects," he added.
Chemistry was the third of this year's Nobel prizes. Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.