Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.
Yoshinori Ohsumi is the sixth Medicine Laureate, and 23rd Nobel award winner born in Japan to be awarded the prestigious prize.
"I was surprised. I was in my lab," Ohsumi said, referring to the phone call he received to tell him he had won.
The scientist studied thousands of yeast mutants, identifying 15 genes that are essential for autophagy, the process whereby the eukaryotic cell can recycle part of its own content.
Little was known about this concept until the 1960s, when researchers first observed that the cell could destroy its own contents, the Nobel Foundation wrote in a press release following the announcement Monday.
Difficulties in studying the phenomenon meant little was known until, in a series of "brilliant experiments in the 1990s, Yoshinori Ohsumi used baker's yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy."
Ohsumi has been credited with generating an enormous interest in autophagy, which is now one of the most intensely studied areas of biomedical research.
It does not stop there
On Tuesday, the prize for physics will be awarded, followed by chemistry on Wednesday.
The discovery of gravitational waves has been mentioned as a potential winner, a major research breakthrough confirming one of Albert Einstein's predictions in his theory of general relativity. Gravitational waves were first observed in February 2016.
There is speculation the chemistry honors could go to classic research in the field, tipping researchers who added new elements to the periodic table, such as nihonium or moscovium.
The main event will take place in Oslo on Friday, when the successor to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet as Nobel Peace Prize laureate will be named. Finally, on October 10, the Nobel economic laureate will complete the 2015 set of prizes.
The Nobel Foundation will award the prize for literature on October 13, a week later than usual.
The prizes in all categories carry a purse of 8 million kroner ($960,000 dollars, 855,000 euros).
The awards will be conferred on December 10, the 120th anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.