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Beginning on October 3rd, in a tradition that now stretches back 115 years, a small group of scientists will gain worldwide acclaim when the Nobel Prizes are announced. The Nobel, of course, is science’s highest award and confers a distinction that will follow the winners for the rest of their lives.

Although many observers enjoy an annual rite of speculation on who might be in line for Nobel honors, the Intellectual Property & Science business brings special insight into the matter. Since 2002, the company has released its yearly additions to the elite roster of Citation Laureates – researchers whose advances have earned quantifiable esteem and wielded unusually strong influence in the scientific community. This impact is manifestly illustrated by the high quantity of citations to their work – with each citation representing a direct mark of influence and significance as judged by the research community.

For a complete list of Citation Laureates, please click here.

For a visual glance how the work of this year's Citation Laureates has already transformed our everyday lives, or is expected to in the near future click here to view the 2016 Citation Laureates.

The latest selection of Citation Laureates, presented here, continues the tradition. All the researchers have demonstrated themselves, by their contributions and citation records, to be “of Nobel class” and worthy of future Nobel recognition.

Of course, the matter of exactly when a Nobel Prize might favor one or more of our Citation Laureates, or if they’ll achieve the honor in their lifetime (as stipulated by Alfred Nobel himself), is in the hands of the Nobel committees. This latest annual naming of deserving recipients, despite its predictive aspect, should not be taken as a forecast of the likely 2016 winners. The Nobel often honors work completed decades in the past, so any attempt to infer when a particular prize is “due,” more often than not, is doomed to fail.

Still, the Citation Laureates have done an admirable job of fulfilling their Nobel destiny. In the last 14 years, 39 of the selected researchers have gone on to win the prize – nine in the same year in which they were named Citation Laureates, 16 within two years of the distinction. Upon conclusion of the 2016 Nobel prize announcements we have correctly predicted 43 nobel prizes. (To see all the successful Nobel predictions, please click here.)

Citations, and More

The search for a new class of Citation Laureates begins with the Web of Science™ and its store of publication and citation data. The analysis primarily centers on individuals who have registered a high number of citations thanks to work demonstrably associated with a consequential discovery or advance (or, in some cases, more than one such achievement).

For more on the selection process, read the complete essay on methodology.

As is customary, three selections for possible prizes and winners have been made in each of the following Nobel categories: Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Economics.

Physiology or Medicine
James P. Allison Professor and Chair, Department of Immunology, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas, Houston TX USA
Jeffrey A. Bluestone A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor of Metabolism and Endocrinology, University of California San Francisco Medical School, San Francisco, CA USA
Craig B. Thompson President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY USA
For explaining how CD28 and CTLA-4 are regulators of T cell activation, modulating immune response.
Gordon J. Freeman Professor, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA USA
Tasuku Honjo Visiting Professor, Kyoto University Kyoto, JAPAN
Arlene H. Sharpe George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School and Member, Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA USA
For elucidating programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) and its pathway, which has advanced cancer immunotherapy.
Michael N. Hall Professor, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Basel, SWITZERLAND
David M. Sabatini Whitehead Institute, Member; Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Member, Koch Institute for Integrative Research; Senior Associate Member, Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA USA
Stuart L. Schreiber Director of Chemical Biology, Broad Institute, Morris Loeb Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Cambridge, MA USA
For discoveries of the growth regulator Target of Rapamycin (TOR) and the mechanistic Target of Rapamycin (mTOR).

TABLE 1: 2016 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Physiology or Medicine

Marvin L. Cohen University Professor, Department of Physics, University of California Berkeley; Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA USA For theoretical studies of solid materials, prediction of their properties, and especially for the empirical pseudopotential method.
Ronald W.P. Drever Professor of Physics Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA USA
Kip S. Thorne Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA USA
Rainer Weiss Professor of Physics Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA USA
For the development of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) that made possible the detection of gravitational waves.
Celso Grebogi Sixth Century Chair in Nonlinear and Complex Systems, School of Natural and Computing Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, SCOTLAND
Edward Ott Distinguished University Professor, Yuen Sang and Yuen Kit So Professor, Department of Physics, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA
James A. Yorke Distinguished University Research Professor of Mathematics and Physics, Institute for Physical Sciences and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD USA
For their description of a control theory of chaotic systems, the OGY method.

TABLE 2: 2016 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Physics

George M. Church Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA USA
Feng Zhang W.M. Keck Career Development Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Core Member, Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA USA
For application of CRISPR-cas9 gene editing in mouse and human cells.
Dennis Lo Yuk Ming Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and of Chemical Pathology, and Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, CHINA For detecting cell-free fetal DNA in maternal plasma, a revolution in noninvasive prenatal testing.
Hiroshi Maeda Professor, Institute of Drug Delivery Science, Sojo University, and Professor Emeritus, Kumamoto University School of Medicine, Kumamoto JAPAN
Yasuhiro Matsumura Director, Division of Developmental Therapeutics, Exploratory Oncology Research and Clinical Trial Center, National Cancer Center, Tokyo JAPAN
For discovering the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect of macromolecular drugs, a key finding for cancer therapeutics.

TABLE 3: 2016 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Chemistry

Olivier J. Blanchard C. Fred Bergsten Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC USA and Robert M. Solow Professor of Economics Emeritus, Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA USA For contributions to macroeconomics, including determinants of economic fluctuations and employment.
Edward P. Lazear Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, and Jack Steele Parker Professor of Human Resources, Management and Economics, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford, CA USA For his development of the distinctive field of personnel economics.
Marc J. Melitz David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy, Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA For pioneering descriptions of firm heterogeneity and international trade.

TABLE 4: 2016 Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates in Economics

Tell Us Who You Think Will Win a Nobel Prize

As always, the new Citation Laureates represent a range of advances. In Physiology or Medicine, for example, James P. Allison, Jeffrey A. Bluestone, and Craig B. Thompson are selected for their work on the protein CTLA4 and its inhibitory effect on the T cells of the immune system. Thanks to their findings, agents that block CTLA4 function, thereby liberating the immune system to fight tumors, have now entered the anti-cancer therapeutic arsenal.

T-cell activity and cancer immunotherapy are also the focus of another group of Laureates in Physiology or Medicine. Gordon J. Freeman, Tasuku Honjo, and Arlene H. Sharpe elucidated the action of the gene PD1, so-named by Honjo and his colleagues for its role in programmed cell death. In subsequent work, the three researchers demonstrated how PD1 negatively regulates the function of T cells, with their findings clearing the way for subsequent development of anti-PD1 treatments for cancer.

The third selection for Physiology and Medicine involves a previous Citation Laureate who is now being tipped as possible Nobel winner in a different field. Stuart L. Schreiber, selected a decade ago in Chemistry for his work with small molecules, now wins recognition, with Michael N. Hall and David M. Sabatini, for work on the TOR (target of rapamycin) receptor, a gene originally identified in a species of yeast but now known to be present in mammals.

Solids, Gravity, Gene Editing

In Physics, Marvin L. Cohen is selected as a potential Nobel winner for his theoretical work clarifying the properties of solid materials, finding a way to simplify the previously daunting calculations based on the interactions of trillions of electrons. In other work, a trio of researchers – Edward Ott, Celso Grebogi, and James A. Yorke – lent their last names to their system, the “OGY” method, for understanding and predicting the behavior of chaotic, non-linear systems, including networks.

Rounding out the Physics selections, three researchers are included for founding the detector that, earlier in 2016, confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Enstein as part of his theory of general relativity. Ronald W.P. Drever, Kip S. Thorne, and Rainer Weiss were the primary drivers behind the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), which made the discovery possible. Like the experimental confirmation of the Higgs boson in 2012, this achievement could bring Nobel recognition in comparatively short order.

In Chemistry, George M. Church and Feng Zhang join two researchers selected as Citation Laureates last year (Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna) for work on the CRISPR gene-editing method. Church and Zhang widened the work into mouse and human cells. Just as CRISPR itself has spawned ethical qualms over the prospect of editing genes, not to mention a lengthy lawsuit over patent credit for the method, the selection of who ultimately wins Nobel recognition is likely to engender controversy.

For his discovery that fetal cells are released into maternal plasma – a finding that countered the longstanding belief that the fetal and maternal circulatory systems are separate – Dennis Lo Yuk Ming is tipped as a possible Nobel winner. His discovery led to several non-invasive pre-natal tests, including one for Down Syndrome. Also in Chemistry, Hiroshi Maeda and Yasuhiro Matsumura are selected for their discoveries involving the vascular biology of tumors, particularly the Enhanced Permeability and Retention (EPR) effect, which provided the groundwork for new therapeutic compounds.

In Economics, Olivier J. Blanchard is recognized for contributions to macroeconomics, including examination of fluctuations in industrialized economies and the persistence of unemployment. Edward P. Lazear, meanwhile, developed the field of personnel economics – exploring, for example, the relationship between compensation and incentives. And Mark J. Melitz has generated a new theory of trade, examining the specifics of how business firms differ, particularly those that export goods overseas and deal with international competition.

We congratulate the new Citation Laureates and are pleased to honor the impact of their contributions. As always, however, the annual questions remain: How many will be summoned to Sweden, and when?