Nobel Prize winner Kobilka talks with The Statesman

Brian Kobilka was more than shocked when he learned he had won the Nobel Prize—mainly because he never set out searching for one. “It’s not something I aimed for,” said Kobilka. “I’m really happy I got it, but I hope I would have been just as happy with my career if I didn’t get it.”

Kobilka and his research partner, Robert Lefkowitz, were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their research in G-protein-coupled receptors, or GCPRs. These proteins are part of our body cells and are responsible for the immediate communication between our cells and body.

“I was really interested in this family of proteins,” said Kobilka. “When I was doing my training, my clinical training, a lot of the drugs that we gave to people who were really sick worked on these receptors. So I just found them really interesting and knew that they were probably really important in terms of how our body regulates itself.”

Kobilka said he also thought that having a better understanding of these proteins would help in creating better drugs for medicine.

“Sometimes you do it for a goal, like to make better medicine, and I’d like to say that was one of my driving forces,” Kobilka said. “But probably the major driving force was just really a keen interest in knowing what these proteins looked like and how they worked.

For 30 years, Kobilka and his team worked at finding new information on these GCPRs, making small advancements and achievements along the way that Kobilka said kept their interest strong.

However, it wasn’t until about a year ago that their research really took off.

“What we were able to accomplish was to learn what these proteins look like in three dimensions,” Kobilka said.

By learning what they looked like, Kobilka has opened new information about how these cells work.

Even though Kobilka has achieved the highest honor in science, he has no plans to take a break.

“It took a long time to … what I consider get it to go,” Kobilka said. “Now we’re going to keep going.”


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