William G. Kaelin Jr
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2019
Born: 23 November 1957, New York, NY, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD, USA; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA; Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
Prize motivation: “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability”
Prize share: 1/3
William Kaelin was born in New York City. He studied chemistry and mathematics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and received his doctor of medicine degree there in 1982. He then did his residency at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2002 he became a professor at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Animals need oxygen for the conversion of food into useful energy. The importance of oxygen has been understood for centuries, but how cells adapt to changes in levels of oxygen has long been unknown. William Kaelin, Peter Ratcliffe, and Gregg Semenza discovered how cells can sense and adapt to changing oxygen availability. During the 1990s they identified a molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen. The discoveries may lead to new treatments of anemia, cancer and many other diseases.