(Reuters) - Researchers at Thomson Reuters’ Healthcare and Science business have named 25 possible winners of the 2009 Nobel prizes in physiology or medicine, chemistry, physics and economics, to be named starting October 6.
Here is a list of the likely winners, as predicted by Thomson Reuters’ David Pendlebury, who has been making such picks since 1989.
* Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California San Francisco, Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and Jack Szostak of Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the discovery of telomerase, the enzyme made by telomeres, the little caps on the end of chromosomes whose natural fraying underlies aging and cancer.
* James Rothman of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Randy Schekman of University of California Berkeley and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for work on cellular membrane trafficking. “They have been the pioneers and very highly cited on unraveling what been called traffic signals or signaling within cells,” Pendlebury said.
* Seiji Ogawa of the Hamano Life Science Research Foundation in Tokyo, who discovered that magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, could be used to measure oxygen flow in the brain in real time, making functional MRI possible.
* Michael Gratzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the invention of dye-sensitized solar cells, now known as Gratzel cells.
* Jacqueline Barton of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Bernd Giese of the University of Basel in Switzerland and Gary Schuster of the Georgia Institute of Technology for work on electron charge transfer in DNA.
“It is important to understand DNA actually in a physical way, how it gets formed and how it is able, electrochemically, to repair damage,” Pendlebury said.
* Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in Mulheim an der Ruhr in Germany for discovering how to make a chemical “right-handed” or “left-handed.” This quality, called chirality, can make the difference between a toxic molecule and a beneficial drug. “He really pioneered the whole field,” said Pendlebury.
* Yakir Aharonov of Chapman University in Orange, California, Tel Aviv University, and the University of South Carolina, and Michael Berry of the University of Bristol in Britain for their discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm Effect and the related Berry Phase. “It describes certain aspects of electromagnetics that violate classical descriptions of physics,” Pendlebury said. “They are all in every physics text book now. It seems odd to me that they have not been recognized by the Nobel committee.”
* John Pendry of Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, Sheldon Schultz of the University of California San Diego and David Smith of Duke University, whose prediction and discovery of negative refraction makes possible meta-materials, used to make “invisibility cloaks” to deflect various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.
* Juan Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany and Peter Zoller of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, whose work on quantum switches has made possible quantum computers.
* Ernst Fehr of University of Zurich in Switzerland and Matthew Rabin of the University of California Berkeley who focused on decisions people make in an economic exchange about fairness or cooperation.
* William Nordhaus of Yale University and Martin Weitzman of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts who led work on the possible economic effects of climate change.
* John Taylor of Stanford University in California, Jordi Gali of Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, and Mark Gertler of New York University “for their research on monetary policy.” “As with so many of these prizes there is a name that is attached to something that he discovered,” Pendlebury said. “The Taylor rule is a formula that he described in 1993 to describe the optimal response of a central bank in setting interest rates.”