The $1.1 million prize is shared by Switzerland's Jacques Dubochet of the University of Lausanne, German-born US citizen Joachim Frank at New York's Columbia University and Briton Richard Henderson of MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.
According to The Guardian, Dubochet, Frank and Henderson will receive equal shares of the 9 million Swedish kronor (£825,000) prize, which was announced by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Wednesday.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has produced an easy-to-read history about the role each of the three winners played in the development of cryo-electron microscopy; there is also an 18-page scientific summary of the research.
Three researchers based in the US, United Kingdom and Switzerland have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developments in electron microscopy. This allowed researchers to use electron microscopes to determine the structures of proteins at much higher resolution than was previously possible.
As alarm about the outbreak spread, scientists were able to generate three-dimensional images of Zika at the atomic level, jump-starting the search for potential drugs and vaccines.
Since its inception, the technique has been used to provide images of cell membranes, structures such as the "needle" used by the salmonella bacteriium to attack cells, and in designing drug molecules to attach to specific targets in new therapies. "It underpins every [cryo-electron microscopy] experiment since".
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Dubochet was born in 1942 in Switzerland and is based at the University of Lausanne, where he is honorary professor of biophysics.
On Monday, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to American trio Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their work on circadian rhythms, often referred to as our body clocks.
"We may soon have detailed images of life's complex machinery in atomic resolution".
Cryo-electron microscopy gets around two major challenges when studying large biological molecules with a transmission electron microscope.
Indeed, cryo-electron microscopy is already delivering results, such as the recent discovery of the structure of tau protein filaments in Alzheimer's disease. The use of both techniques was, however, subject to limitations imposed by the nature of biomolecules. The benchmark for excellence in the domain of science is the Nobel Prize which is awarded for innovative ventures in Science and this time no exception.
John Hardy, neuroscience professor at University College London, said Dubochet, Frank and Henderson's technique has transformed the field of structural biology.