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November 6, 2015
NIH Supports Three 2015 Nobel Laureates

Dr. Angus Deaton of Princeton University
Dr. Paul Modrich of Duke University
Dr. Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The 2015 Nobel laureates whose work has been funded by NIH are (from top) Dr. Angus Deaton of Princeton University; Dr. Paul Modrich of Duke University; and Dr. Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. NIH has now funded a total of 148 Nobel prize winners.

PHOTOS (FROM TOP): DENISE APPLEWHITE, PRINCETON; DUKE UNIVERSITY; MAX ENGLUND, UNC SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

NIH funding has supported three of the 2015 Nobel Prizes, two in chemistry and one for the economic sciences prize.

Two of the three scientists who shared the chemistry prize are long-time grantees—Dr. Paul Modrich of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University School of Medicine and Dr. Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The prize honored the mapping, at a molecular level, of how cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard genetic information.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the laureates’ work on DNA repair “has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions.” The third chemistry laureate is Dr. Tomas Lindahl of the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory, Hertfordshire, U.K.

Thousands of spontaneous changes to a cell’s genome occur on a daily basis. Additionally, radiation, free radicals and carcinogenic substances can also damage DNA. To keep the information in the genetic instruction book from degrading, a range of molecular systems monitors and repairs DNA, using processes the three scientists helped map out.

“This basic understanding about cell function has led to the discovery of the causes of genetic conditions associated with cancer and is being used to develop new cancer treatments,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “NIH is proud to have supported this work.”

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences has supported Sancar’s work since 1982 and has continuously supported Modrich’s work since 1972. Sancar has also received support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, while the National Cancer Institute has also funded Modrich.

The prize in economics went to National Institute on Aging grantee Dr. Angus Deaton of Princeton University. His research has focused on measuring poverty among the elderly in the U.S., the influence of income and inequality on health and mortality in high, middle and low income countries, as well as the role of work in the decline of health at older ages.

His more recent funded work focused on the measurement of subjective well-being, a self-reported quality of life index. Deaton has examined the impact of the financial crisis on well-being in the U.S. as well as how subjective measures of well-being vary across people in different societal groups and in different countries. His research has been published in high-profile medical and economics journals such as PNAS, The Lancet and the American Economic Review.

“The National Institute on Aging is proud to have supported Dr. Deaton’s work for more than 20 years,” said NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes. “His work has examined how circumstances including income inequality and early childhood nutrition influence health and subjective well-being across the life course in the United States and around the world.”

Deaton has also received support from the Fogarty International Center.

The 2015 prizes bring the total number of Nobel laureates supported by NIH, either intramurally or extramurally, to 148.

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