Nobel prize winner Brian K. Kobilka of Stanford University says he hopes his work has opened the door to making better medicines.
Kobilka is one of two American scientists awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday for research into how cells respond to external stimuli that is helping to develop better drugs to fight illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and depression.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said the 8 million crown (1.2 million USD) prize went to Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University for discovering the inner workings of G-protein-coupled receptors, gateways to cells that react to chemical messages.
Kobilka said he was being recognized primarily for his work in determining the structure of the receptors and what they look like in three dimensions.
Working out better ways to target the receptors, known as GPCRs, is an area of keen interest to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Kobilka said when the phone call first came in from Stockholm, he thought it was a crank call or a wrong number.
Chemistry was the third of this year's Nobel prizes. Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.