© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2009
Born: 1952, Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India
Affiliation at the time of the award: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome."
Prize share: 1/3
An organism's vital functions are managed by large, complex protein molecules produced in cells' ribosomes. There, genetic information from "messenger RNA" is translated into chains of amino acids that then build proteins. Using a method known as x-ray crystallography, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and other researchers were able to collaborate to map the structure of ribosomes, made up of hundreds of thousands of atoms, in 2000. Among other applications, this has been important in the production of antibiotics.