This year’s Physiology or Medicine Nobel goes to two cancer researchers (and a contest)

Here’s the video announcing today’s Nobel Prize, awarded to James P. Allison, an American who works at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Tasuko Honjo, a Japanese immunologist at Kyoto University, for the discovery of ways to cöopt the human immune system to attack cancer cells.  (See announcement and press release here).

Here are the winners, and the long announcement is below:

James P. Allison

Tasuko Honjo


I thought that some CRISPR workers would win the prize this year, but I suppose that a.) it needs to be proven to work in humans given that the prize is for work relevant to our own species, and b.) there are several contenders, more than the three allowed to share a prize.

We’ll also have a contest, which is open until 5 a.m. tomorrow. Please post below your guesses for the winners in these TWO categories for 2018:

  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Literature NOTE: Literature prize not awarded this year.

The science prizes may be shared, but you will be counted as “correct” if you give a single winner in the group. But if you give an incorrect name among several winners, that won’t be counted as a correct answer.  The first person to get a correct answer in all three categories will win an autographed copy of my book (either trade book of your choice), with a Nobel cat drawn inside. Last year, as I recall, there were no winners. The literature category is always hard! However, that category is not being filled in 2018 because of a sexual assault scandal.



  1. Bruce Cochrane
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Because of a sexual harassment scandal, the Literature prize is not being awarded this year.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Which makes the new Glen Close/Jonathan Pryce film all the more relevant!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I was going to give that film a plug, too. Great performances by Glenn Close, in the title role, and Jonathan Pryce, as her Nobel-Prize-winning novelist husband, in the leads. And nice supporting turns by Christian Slater and Elizabeth McGovern (whom I hadn’t seen in a feature film in a while).

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Oh, I forgot. I’ll eliminate that from the categories.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve fixed the contest so that you have to guess winners in only two categories: Physics and Chemistry. Thanks.

    • Tom Czarny
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink
      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        It’s a swedish court, so – as I gather is not permissible in UK/US criminal court – witnesses are enough. The first press round claims the case (one of two from the same woman, and many more not considered) is well evidenced and well parsed. So while Arnault’s advocate has said they seek higher court, I guess the verdict will stand.

  2. MKray
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    More a wish than a prediction:
    Physics: John Clauser, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      What did they do?

      Guessing Alessandro Strumia will NOT get one!

      • Tom Czarny
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink


    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Ah yes, Aspect and Zeilinger at least have been mentioned, after another series of extensions. (Latest using supernovas across the universe to provide the random numbers that are used to exclude hidden variables.)

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        Do they still award Nobel prizes for the foundations of QM?


  3. Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    There is a lot of discussion now about how poor a method of recognizing scientific achievement the Nobels are. I mean by that, that people say it makes science too competitive, & only acknowledges up to three winners. See Robin McKie in yesterday’s Observer –

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have a friend who works for the Nobel Foundation!

    Chemistry Jennifer Doudna & at least one other, surely they can do CRISPR for chemistry as well as ‘medicine’? One day she’ll be there…

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      For a while, a good way to increase one’s chances for a Nobel were to do biochemistry; and a while before that to work on new elements.

      The former got a bunch of physiology or medicine *and* chemistry prizes; the latter got chemistry and physics.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      It’s a will, so it is a player on a market rather than a state invented method for something or other.

    • Posted October 27, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Nevertheless, it is a way to recognize the contributions of a handful of scientists (quite deserving in most cases) and to popularize science.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink


    … I heard that when CRISPR wins, the Nobel Prizes will be all over.

    Sorry, couldn’t help it.

  5. Tom Czarny
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    If there is any justice in the Universe (and there isn’t), Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier in Chemistry for CRISPR-Cas 9. Alan Guth in Physics for Cosmic Inflation. No Lit Prize this year.

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      And Mojica as well, who discovered CRISPR.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Jennifer Doudna for Chemistry, Michel Mayor for Physics.

      (I don’t think that inflation is firmly enough established for a Nobel.)

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I think Cosmic Inflation has not yet been proven as a fact, although it helps explain nicely the way the universe look today. I believe many people are working in this to show that it indeed did happen. If it’s true Guth deserves the prize.

  6. kieran
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Chemistry: Michael Grätzel and Krzysztof Matyjaszewski

    Physics: Lene Hau and Alain Aspect

  7. Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Clever money says Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger for physics. They already got the Wolf Prize (for showing that quantum mechanics continues to be weirder than we can suppose) and that’s not a bad predictor.

  8. Neil
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    If John Goodenough never wins one, that’ll be a ridiculous oversight. So he’s my pick for Chemistry for inventing the battery that changed the world. He’s also a very sweet man.

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      On your coat tails, John Goodenough, Chemistry.

      Vera Rubin and Kent Ford, Physics

    • Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      That’s a choice that’s good enough.


  9. Neil
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Oh, and Tsutomu Miyasaka for perocski solar cells

    • Neil
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink


  10. Curtis
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Since politics are a part of the Nobel landscape, I expect a woman to win one or both of the prizes. IMO, the most likely are Jennifer Doudna for chemistry and Lene Hau for physics.

    My picks are:
    Chemistry – Stanley Whittingham and John Goodenough
    Physics – Lene Hau

  11. bonetired
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell. To correct a massive injustice. She won’t win though. One of the major flaws of the Nobels is that they won’t correct glaring mistakes.

  12. Barney
    Posted October 2, 2018 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Looks like no one predicted any of the 3 Physics laureates – “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland.

    Only the 3rd female laureate in Physics. Notable, given the CERN kerfuffle just yesterday.

%d bloggers like this: