Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, 10 December 2019.
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Dear Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of Professors Gregg Semenza, William Kaelin and myself, I wish to thank the Nobel Committee, the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute and the Nobel Foundation for this great honour.
The three of us work on the signalling of oxygen levels in cells. Oxygen, which we breathe and deliver to our 40 trillion cells, the gas identified by Priestley, Lavoisier and the Swedish chemist Carl Scheele – necessary for combustion, for fire; necessary for metabolism, for life. They framed the question over 200 years ago; too little is trouble; too much is trouble. We work on that balance. Hypoxia inducible factors that direct thousands of responses across those cells and an oxygen switch that turns them up and down like a thermostat, which we hope can be tuned to treat hypoxic disease; anaemia, cancer.
I say we hope. The Nobel Assembly is very careful. It hedges a little. We have the honour of the Nobel Prize in Physiology OR Medicine. We would love it to be Physiology AND Medicine. But for the moment we’ll settle for that, basic discovery on which others may build. And we salute the many others who have contributed to that knowledge.
These splendid celebrations have blown us away. New experiences. We have had a lot of interview questions. What is my favourite Beatles song, what is my favourite time of day, what is my favourite food? We have learned so much about ourselves; the answers to all those questions.
We also learned about you. We think of you as a tall and beautiful people, who live in a very cold place, warm but quite serious, rather careful about the consumption of alcohol. Well many of you are tall, you are VERY beautiful, it is cold, but that serious “no laughing, no alcohol” idea? How could we be so wrong? Thank you for this very great honour, thank you for your amazing hospitality, thank you for the tremendous party.
Tack så mycket!