Nordic Life Science 1
Gregg Semenza receiving his Nobel Prize from H.M.
King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden “Hopefully adding HIF inhibitors will contribute to slowing cancer. Inhibitors will have broad applications in cancer treatment.” Persistence is at the heart of research, Semenza has learned. “We do many experiments that don’t work,” he notes. “My mentor said ‘We search and research.’ The enjoyable aspect of the job is the type of problem-solving that we do to better understand a particular disease. Each study that we do, we hope is a small step forward; each time we write up our results for publication, we can see how far we have come, and that is so satisfying.” His Nobel Prize winning discoveries might not have come to light if Semenza had pursued his other great interest; he trained as a pediatrician and a medical geneticist, and both areas appealed to him. “But I felt ultimately I could have the greatest impact with work in the lab.” His record has proven his intuition was correct. “As an investigator, Gregg is remarkably smart, creative, rigorous, dedicated, collegial and ethical,” 76 NORDICLIFESCIENCE.ORG Wiener says. “At his Nobel lecture he listed his mentors, trainees and collaborators – the list could not fit on one slide! He is truly driven by a passion for discovery and to help people through basic investigation.” A high-school biology teacher with a unique approach in Tarrytown, N.Y., helped steer Semenza toward the sciences. “Rose Nelson had a PhD and had done research and rather than tell us a series of facts, she talked about key scientific discoveries and the people who made those discoveries. I became hooked on that.” Semenza also knows first-hand that it can take years for the impact of basic science discoveries to become apparent to the broad scientific community, but that does not take away from the excitement of the discovery. “It turns out the system we identified regulates thousands of genes; all this took time to become apparent,” he notes. “In science, we take small steps – the community of science moves things forward – the ultimate hope is to take what we learned in the lab and apply it to clinical care. If we are not successful, someone else will come along and pick up where we left off.” NLS © NOBEL MEDIA AB PHOTO ALEXANDER MAHMOUD