Lefkowitz is an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina while Kobilka is a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. They received their award for their discoveries related to G-protein-coupled receptors. The human body has about 1,000 kinds of such receptors, structures on the surface of cells, which let the body respond to a wide variety of chemical signals, like adrenaline. Some receptors are in the nose, tongue and eyes, and let us sense smells, tastes and light.
Using radioactivity, Lefkowitz managed to unveil receptors including the receptor for adrenaline, and started to understand how it works. Kobilka and his team realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike - a family that is now called G-protein-coupled receptors.
About half of all medications act on these receptors, including beta blockers and antihistamines, so learning about them will help scientists to come up with better drugs.
2 US scientists win Nobel chemistry prize - Associated Press