Breast cancer treatment? Messenger RNA vaccines? Advances in disease detection? The Nobel Prize in Medicine opens the famous philanthropic awards season on Monday, under the shadow of the ongoing war in Europe.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, as it is officially called, will be announced around 11:30 am (09:30 GMT) this Monday in Stockholm.
Then will follow the Nobel Prizes in physics on Tuesday, in chemistry on Wednesday and, the most anticipated, in literature on Thursday and for peace on Friday, this one was announced in Oslo.
The most recently created Nobel Prize in Economics closes its 2022 season next Monday.
For the Nobel Prize for Medicine, the name of a woman is again being discussed, that of the American geneticist Mary-Claire King.
In 1990, she discovered a gene responsible for breast cancer, the most common malignant tumor in women.
At 76, she can be inducted alongside other pioneers of a therapeutic antibody against breast cancer, her compatriot Denis Slamon and the German Axel Ulrich, who discovered the trastuzumab treatment.
If the Nobel jury breaks the cautious trend of enshrining old discoveries, another woman has every chance of winning it for her role in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
Honored for two years with nearly every major medical prize, American-Hungarian Katalin Kariko, a long-marginalized researcher, will receive the top prize as a pioneer of messenger RNA vaccines.
“Not only because of the direct benefit it has brought us in the face of the pandemic, but this is the first in a series of very promising applications of this technology,” emphasizes Ulrika Björksten, head of the science service at Swedish Public Radio.
In the case of vaccine awards, she could be lit next to her American colleagues Drew Weisman and Canadian Peter Cullis.
Last year, the award went to two Americans, David Julius and Ardem Pataputyan, for their discoveries about how touch works.
A physiology-related award would mean more medical recognition this year, says David Pendlebury.
This head of the Clarivate organization has a list of several dozen Nobel candidates for scientific awards.
He’s betting on King and Slamon this year, but also cited Hong Kong’s Yuk Ming Dennis Lo.
This pioneer introduced non-invasive prenatal diagnostics, which facilitated the limitation of the use of amniocentesis.
With this technique came a series of so-called “liquid” biopsies. “With a simple sample of blood or blood plasma, any possible problem or disease can be detected,” Pendlebury said.
Male American or US-based researchers have dominated science Nobel Prizes in recent decades, despite juries’ efforts to award more women.
The 2021 Nobel season did not break the rule with 12 male and only one female laureates. All science prizes were awarded to men.
For Thursday’s Nobel Prize in literature, critics polled by AFP are leaning towards a more familiar name after two laureates emerged from the shadows, American poet Louise Gluck in 2020 and Tanzanian-born British writer Abdulrazak Gurna last year.
The American Joyce Carol Oates, the French Annie Hernaud or Marise Conde, the Russian Lyudmila Ulitskaya or the Canadian Margaret Atwood would confirm the parity efforts of the jury in recent years.
Frenchman Michel Welbeck is currently the favorite on the betting sites. He is ahead of Salman Rushdie, the victim of an assassination attempt in August.
But the peace prize would have the biggest impact this year.
After awarding Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov and his Filipino colleague Maria Ressa, will the Norwegian committee give an anti-Putin award after the invasion of Ukraine?
Never since the Second World War has an interstate conflict been registered so close to Oslo.
The International Criminal Court (ICC), which is responsible for investigating war crimes in Ukraine, is mentioned, as is the International Court of Justice, also based in the Netherlands. As well as the imprisoned Russian opponent Alexei Navalny or the Belarusian opponent Svetlana Tiyanovskaya.
In the case of an award focused on climate and the environment, experts cite Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, perhaps alongside British naturalist David Attenborough or activists such as Sudan’s Nisreen Elsaim and Ghanaian Chibeze Ezekiel.