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U.S., Japanese Researchers Win Nobel Prize For Chemistry

Akira Suzuki (left), Ei-ichi Negishi, and Richard Heck -- winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry
American Richard Heck and Japanese researchers Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki have won the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry for creating a tool to manipulate carbon atoms, paving the way for new drugs to fight cancer and other diseases.

The technology will help create improvements in consumer products, such as thinner computer screens, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science said.

The secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, professor Staffan Normark, made the announcement in Stockholm today.

Lars Thelander, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, explained the benefits of the new technology, called "palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis."

"[It] is widely used, both in academia and industry, to synthesize complex organic molecules, for example, new medicines, agricultural chemicals, and organic compounds used in the electronics industry."

The new technology provides chemists with a precise and efficient way to join carbon atoms together. It has allowed chemists to synthesize compounds to fight colon cancer, the herpes virus, and HIV, as well as smarter plastics that are used in consumer applications, such as ultrathin computer monitors.

Previous attempts to create complex chemicals by joining carbon atoms left too many unwanted byproducts in test tubes.

Heck, 79, is a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware. The 75-year-old Negishi is a chemistry professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The 80-year-old Suzuki is a professor at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded 101 times to 157 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2009. Last year it was awarded to Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz, and Israeli Ada Yonath, for their mapping of protein-producing machinery within cells. Their research is now being used to develop new antibiotics.

The chemistry prize of $1.5 million, which will be shared amongst the three winners, was the third of this year's awards. The committee announced the Nobel Prize for medicine on October 4 and the physics award on October 5.

It is due to announce the Nobel Prize in literature on October 7, the Peace Prize on October 8, and the winner of the economic-sciences award on October 11.

compiled from agency reports