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Spooky theory, leukemia drugs top Nobel tips: Thomson Reuters

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Researchers who developed ground-breaking leukemia drugs, discovered dendrimers and delved into the intricacies of what Einstein dubbed "spooky action" are among Thomson Reuters 2011 top tips to win Nobel prizes for science.

Nobel prediction expert David Pendlebury's annual forecast is made using the company's "Web of Knowledge" data on how often a scientist's published papers are used and cited as a basis for further investigation by other researchers.

"In the scientific community, citations ... can serve as another form of peer review," said Pendlebury, a citation analyst at Thomson Reuters research services.

"The more cited a scientist is, the more well-respected the author tends to be amongst his or her peers, which can be a predictor of awards like the Nobel prize."

Winners of the 2011 Nobels are due to be announced in early October and at least one of the picks from Pendlebury's prediction list has won every year. He makes predictions for the four science prizes, not for Peace and Literature.

Among Thomson Reuters favorites for the Medicine prize are three scientists from the United States -- Brian Druker, Nicholas Lydon and Charles Sawyers -- who discovered and developed ground-breaking new drugs called imatinib and dasatinib for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

So-called tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs such as imatinib, marketed by Swiss drugmaker Novartis as Glivec or Gleevec, and dasatinib, sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb as Sprycel, have transformed treatment of CML and are credited with turning it from a fatal cancer into a manageable condition.

"This was a fundamental discovery in medicine ... with a fantastic result which is often referred to in terms like 'magic bullet'," said Pendlebury. "It has really given a new paradigm for the treatment of cancer."

He noted that Druker, Lydon and Sawyers won the 2009 Lasker award, widely considered a good predictor of Nobel winners, for their work. "It seems to me that all things are in alignment for a Nobel prize for this discovery."

WILL THE NOBELS SPOOK EINSTEIN?

Also on Pendlebury's Medicine list are Robert Langer and Joseph Vacanti, who pioneered work in regenerative medicine and who in 2005 founded the company InVivo Therapeutics to develop stem cell treatments for people with spinal cord injuries.

For Chemistry, Pendlebury points to Jean Frechet and Donald Tomalia, who discovered dendrimers -- a class of tiny synthetic compounds that can be designed for use in medicine, electronics and materials industries -- and to Martin Karplus for pioneering simulations of the molecular dynamics of biomolecules.

Nobels often go to groups of three researchers, so French scientist Alain Aspect, American John Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger may be in with a chance of the Physics prize for their work on quantum entanglement, a notion that an exasperated Albert Einstein once described as "spooky action at a distance."

Quantum entanglement involves the theory that particles can be connected in such a way that changing the state of one instantly affects the other, even when they are miles apart.

Entanglement plays an important role in the development of super-fast quantum computers, which scientists believe could outperform conventional computers by being able to test many possible solutions to a problem at once.

Aspect, Clauser and Zeilinger confirmed the entanglement phenomenon in a series of sophisticated experiments during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and in 2010 won the Wolf Prize in Physics for their work.

"While a full description of the kind that Einstein wanted is still not in anybody's pocket, these experiments have been fundamental in physics in the 20th century," said Pendlebury.

"They have confirmed spookiness at a distance. And I think Einstein would continue to be annoyed that there is not a better explanation for how this occurs."

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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