Brian Kobilka, professor and chair of molecular and cellular physiology at the School of Medicine, won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He received the phone call from the Nobel committee at 2:20 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
The prize was awarded to Kobilka for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors: proteins found on the surface of cells that transmit information across cell membranes. He shares the $1.2 million prize with Robert Lefkowitz, a Duke University professor of biochemistry and medicine.
“I didn’t believe it at first, but after I spoke with about five people – they handed the phone around – with really convincing Swedish accents, I started to think it was for real,” Kobilka said in an interview with Stanford News Service.
A press conference was held at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning in the Paul Berg Conference Room, at which Kobilka, University President John Hennessy and Dean of the School of Medicine Philip Pizzo spoke.
“[Winning the Nobel Prize] speaks to several things: endurance, brilliance, dedication, commitment to assailing the odds because you really passionately believe in something,” Pizzo said at the press conference. “You [Kobilka] epitomize what is really great about science.”
Hennessy noted that the award is Stanford’s 27th Nobel Prize.
“It is both humble and gratifying – a tradition of excellence in research and what our faculty has been able to do,” he said.
Kobilka emphasized the “incredible collaborative effort” involved in his research, which began in the 1980s.
“I hope that we can translate these discoveries to develop more safer, more effective drugs and more economically developed drugs,” he said in an interview with Reuters.
Stanford currently has 17 living Nobel Laureates, two of whom were awarded the prize in Chemistry. They are Roger Kornberg, who won the prize in 2006 for his work on DNA transcription and Paul Berg, who won the prize in 1980 for his work on nucleic acids in recombinant DNA.