STOCKHOLM • Covid-19 vaccine pioneers, media watchdogs, climate activists and Belarus opposition leaders are just some of those tipped for Nobel glory when the latest prize recipients are announced from Monday against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Launched 120 years ago, the medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace awards created by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, as well as the more recent economics prize, will be given out in Stockholm and Oslo from Oct 4 to 11.
While the list of contenders is a closely guarded secret, Nobel experts say research on messenger RNA (mRNA) - which forms the basis of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines - is a hot favourite for the medicine or chemistry prizes.
"It would be a mistake if the Nobel Committee did not give the prize to mRNA vaccine technology," Swedish science journalist Ulrika Bjorksten said. She cited as possible laureates Dr Katalin Kariko of Hungary and Dr Drew Weissman of the United States, whose pioneering research led directly to the first mRNA vaccines.
These have been injected in over a billion people worldwide in a race to ease a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 4.7 million people. Dr Kariko and Dr Weissman have already received several accolades, including the Lasker Prize in the US, often seen as a precursor to the Nobel.
Other fields that could be honoured include cell communication, the workings of the immune system, the discovery of the breast cancer gene, epigenetics and antibiotic resistance.
The medicine prize opens the Nobel season on Monday, followed by the awards for physics on Tuesday, chemistry on Wednesday, literature on Thursday and peace on Friday, and the economics prize on Oct 11.
Among those tipped for the peace prize - the only one to be given in Oslo - are media watchdogs, Belarusian opposition leaders and climate campaigners, such as Greta Thunberg of Sweden.
While the names of the Nobel laureates are kept secret until the last minute, the Nobel Foundation has announced that the prize ceremony and banquet held in Stockholm in December for the science and literature laureates will not happen this year because of the pandemic.