When a woman wins a Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to a female chemist who discovered a way to use a tiny molecule called a porphyrin to kill bacteria.
Harriet Harman, who won the Nobel in chemistry in 1994 for her discovery of porphytins, said in a statement that the prize will be “given to a scientist who has led a revolution in our understanding of the molecular world.
It is a gift for the human spirit.”
Harman said her breakthrough was to use porphyl, a pyrrolidone-like compound, to kill the bacterium Escherichia coli, which causes a common bacterial infection known as campylobacteriosis.
Porphyrins are one of the building blocks of proteins and play an important role in the functioning of many cell-like structures, including those in the body and brain.
The Nobel Peace Laureate also said the discovery “opens a new era of research into the molecular machinery of living systems, a paradigm that has previously been beyond our grasp.
This breakthrough opens the door to new ways of understanding how cells work.”
Her work is credited with leading to the development of antibiotics and other life-saving drugs that are used widely in medical care.
Her work also was instrumental in developing new methods to treat the bacteria in campylomorphye that cause campylococcal infections, a disease that can be fatal.
The award will be presented Thursday night in Stockholm at the Stockholm Academy of Sciences.
The prize was first awarded in 1991.