Skip to main content
Research and innovation
News article16 October 2019BrusselsDirectorate-General for Research and Innovation2 min read

European researchers among 2019 Nobel Prize laureates

Over the course of last week, the Nobel Foundation awarded the prestigious Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace. In addition, the 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:

I warmly congratulate all of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates. They have pushed the frontiers of knowledge and their discoveries help us tackle challenges facing humanity, such as the need for clean energy and for new life-saving treatments. It makes me proud to see that EU research and innovation funding has supported some of them in their work

On 07/10, the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr (USA), Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe (UK) and Gregg L. Semenza (USA) for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. The laureates’ work has increased our understanding of how oxygen levels affect cellular metabolism and physiological function, paving the way for new ways to fight anaemia, cancer and other diseases.

One of the three winners, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, participated in the EU-funded EUROXY project, which targeted oxygen-sensing cascades for novel cancer treatments. Running from 2004 to 2009, the collaborative project received €8 million from the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for science and research (FP6). Its findings contributed greatly to later research into how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. Moreover, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and with Christopher J. Schofield (UK) jointly received an ERC Advanced Grant in 2008 to study proteins involved in oxygen sensing in cells, namely hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) hydroxylases. With this ERC grant, they undertook an ambitious interdisciplinary programme of work into the chemistry, physiology and therapeutics of how cells sense and signal hypoxia or low levels of oxygen.

On 08/10, the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics went jointly to James Peebles (USA) for theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology, and to Michael Mayor (CH) and Didier Queloz (CH) for the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star. Both Professors Mayor and Queloz were in the past involved in OPTICON (Optical Infrared Coordination Network), an infrastructure supported by the EU since its Fifth Framework Programme for science and research (FP5) until the current programme, Horizon 2020, with a total of €38.7 million in EU funding. Their discovery of the exoplanet 51 Pegasi b was actually made with one of the telescopes that later became part of the OPTICON network (at the Observatoire de Haute-Provence, 193 cm).

On 09/10, John B. Goodenough (USA), M. Stanley Whittingham (UK) and Akira Yoshino (JP) received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries. Professor Whittingham from Binghamton University was one of the co-authors of a scientific paper linked to the EU-funded ALION projects.  The paper, Nanotechnology for environmentally sustainable electromobility, examined the potential climate change mitigation impact of electric vehicles (EVs) powered by lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) or proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cells (PEMFCs) when combined with clean energy sources.

The 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, awarded on 14/10, saw a European among the laureates, too. The French scientist Esther Duflo, together with Abhijit Banerjee (USA) and Michael Kremer (USA), received the prize for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

More information

The Nobel Prize

Horizon Europe


Publication date
16 October 2019
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation