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St. Paul native wins Nobel Prize for medicine

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A St. Paul native has been awarded the world's top prize in medicine.

Randy Schekman, along with American James Rothman, and Germany's Thomas Suedhof, won the 2013 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology for their research into how cells organize their transport system, Reuters reports.

Schekman, 64, a University of California, Berkley, professor, was born 1948 in St. Paul and studied at the University of California in Los Angeles and at Stanford University, where he earned a PhD in 1974, the Nobel Prize website notes.

The chairman of the prize committee awoke Schekman at 1 a.m. in his California home, where he was still suffering from jetlag from a trip to Germany, he told the Associated Press.

"I wasn't thinking too straight. I didn't have anything elegant to say," he told the AP. "All I could say was 'Oh my God,' and that was that."

A Berkeley press release says Schekman said, “My first reaction was, “Oh, my god! That was also my second reaction.”

The three researchers were honored for their discoveries about how hormones, enzymes and other substances are transported within cells, the AP notes. The transport amounts to a traffic control system that gives researchers insight into a variety of diseases and immune system ailments, the Nobel committee said.

"The three Nobel Laureates have discovered the molecular principles that govern how this cargo is delivered to the right place at the right time in the cell," the Nobel committee said.

In the future, the research could lead to medicines for the fight against some types of epilepsy, diabetes and other metabolism problems, Nobel committee secretary Goran Hansson told the AP.

Berkeley's website says Schekman's research "led directly to the success of the biotechnology industry, which was able to coax yeast to secrete useful protein drugs, such as insulin and human growth factor, using Schekman’s discoveries."

There's more on Schekman and his research here.

Medicine is the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year, followed this week and next by prize announcements for physics, chemistry, literature, economics and peace, Reuters notes. The awards were established in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.

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