This year, the prize went to American Dr. Stephen P.A. Fodor, British Professor Sir Edwin Southern, and posthumously to the Russian Professor Andrei Mirzabekov, who passed away last year, for their fundamental contributions to the development of microarray technology (DNA chip). DNA chip technology is one of the applications with the greatest diagnostic clinical potential. Individual DNA segments are affixed to a glass surface, thereby functioning as so-called probes. Each probe detects a specific gene sequence. The sequences bind to the probe by hybridization. Unlike any other technology, gene chips are the premier example of miniaturization and automation in bioanalytics and medicine. They provide actionable information relevant for research, diagnosis, and treatment and open the door to more individualized medicine. The function of genes or predispositions for certain tumor diseases can be diagnosed, as can the tolerability of drugs. This facilitates the selection and dosage of active ingredients for treatment. In addition, unnecessary costs in the health-care sector can be avoided.
Dr. Fodor, a doctor of chemistry, researched methods with a high throughput of material and described microarray technology for the first time. In addition, he is co-founder, president, and CEO of Affymetrix, a California- based biotechnology company and a leading manufacturer of DNA chips.
Professor Southern of the University of Oxford also received the prize in 1984 for developing the DNA hybridization method named after him (Southern blotting). As a repeat winner, he has demonstrated his extraordinary scientific abilities once again.
Professor Mirzabekov was the director of the Engelhardt Institute for Molecular Biology in Moscow for almost 20 years. He played a central role in the Human Genome Project and worked tirelessly and under difficult circumstances on the development of DNA chips for unknown sequences. He died last summer.
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