The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017
Born: 7 March 1944, Kansas City, MO, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm."
Prize share: 1/3
Michael Rosbash was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were of Jewish descent and had fled from Nazi Germany in 1938. He studied at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and at Biologie Physico-Chimique in Paris and then obtained a doctor’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970. After spending three years at the University of Edinburgh in United Kingdom, he began work in 1974 at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Michael Rosbash is married and has a stepdaughter and a daughter.
In our cells an internal clock helps us to adapt our biological rhythm to the different phases of day and night. Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young studied fruit flies to figure out how this clock works. In 1984 they managed to identify a gene that encodes a protein that accumulates during the night but is degraded during the day. They also identified additional proteins that form part of a self-regulating biological clockwork in the fruit fly's cells. The same principles have been shown to apply to other animals and plants.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.