"I might have been just as happy to have been a practicing primary-care doctor," he said after winning that prize. "But as a medical student I had interacted with patients suffering from neurodegeneration or acute clinical schizophrenia. It left an indelible mark on my memory."
Jeremy Berg, former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, said Monday's announcement was "long overdue" and widely expected.
That's because the winners' research was "so fundamental, and has driven so much other research," he said in a telephone interview.
Berg, who now directs the Institute for Personalized Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said the work provided the intellectual framework scientists use to study how brain cells communicate and how other cells release hormones. In both cases, vesicles play a key role by delivering their cargo to the cell surface and releasing it to the outside, he said.
So the work has indirectly affected research into virtually all neurological disease as well as other diseases, he said.
Established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prizes have been handed out by award committees in Stockholm and Oslo since 1901. The winners always receive their awards on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death in 1896.
Last year's medicine award went to Britain's John Gurdon and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka for their contributions to stem cell science.
Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin, Matt Surman in London, Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn., and Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.