The countdown to week of Nobel it always creates a frenzy in the scientific community. But after a pandemic deeply marked by scientific advances, the delivery of these awards is lived with even more effervescence. This Monday, around 11:30 a.m., the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will announce the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. On Tuesday, around the same time, it will be time to discover who the winners of the Physics award are and on Wednesday it will be time to talk about Chemistry.
This year, how could it be otherwise, there is a theme that is repeated over and over again in the Nobel pools: the exceptional race to get the first vaccines against him covid-19. At the end of last year, scientific journals such as ‘Science’ and ‘Nature’ highlighted the success of immunizations against the coronavirus as “scientific discovery of the year”. Since then, the scientific teams behind these pioneering formulas they have received countless accolades around the world. In part, because of its scientific achievement. But partly also because of the incredible scientific, technical and human deployment done to develop a drug in just one year. Something never seen to date.
Of all the vaccines against covid-19 already available in outpatient clinics around (almost) the world, which by now are around ten, the ones that sound the most for the Nobel Prize are the mRNA formulas. The punctures of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna stand out for having shown that this pioneering technology, which could one day even bring vaccines against Cancer, it is safe and effective. Rewarding these formulas, then, would be equivalent to reward the promises of the future of this technique. Just a few weeks ago, in addition, Lasker Awards, considered the prelude to the Nobel, elevated the work of Katalin Karikó, one of the mothers of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, and of Drew weissman, one of the pioneers in the development of mRNA vaccines.
But rumors are just rumors. And in the Nobels, as in football, everyone wants their team to win. Beyond the vaccine enthusiasts, on the eve of the delivery of these awards, all the scientists assure that the name that sounds the most for this year’s Nobel is precisely that of the person who revolutionized his discipline. The truth is that the list of nominees and finalists it is kept under lock until the last moment. The winners, in fact, find out their merit just when the announcement is made public. So, at least in this area, difficult for a leak to hinder the surprise.
Whoever this year’s winners are, the covid-19 pandemic will once again make its mark at the awards ceremony. In 2021, for the second consecutive year, the Nobel Foundation has been forced to cancel all official acts that used to orbit the delivery of the Nobel. There will be no official ceremony for the delivery of the emblematic gold medals. There will also be no banquet or gala that allows gathering all the scientific brains of the year in the same room. According to the organization, the announcement of the winners will be made by ‘streaming’ and the winners of this edition will receive the honors in their respective countries of origin.
For now, it seems that the only exception to this strict regulation could be the Nobel Peace Prize. It is possible that the winner of this award, which stands out as one of the most emblematic of the year, is the only one who travels to Oslo to receive his award. Although given the unpredictable spread of the virus, the event will not be confirmed until the last moment. Once again, the name of the young environmental activist Greta thunberg sounds for this coveted recognition. Especially after the devastating publication of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on the eve of the next United Nations Conference on the climate crisis (COP26) and before the resurgence of the movement to save the planet.