American Roger D. Kornberg, whose father won a Nobel Prize a half-century ago, was awarded the prize in chemistry in October 4th for his studies of how cells take information from genes to produce proteins.
Disturbances in that process, known as transcription, are involved in many human illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and various kinds of inflammation.
Understanding transcription also is vital to the development of treatments using stem cells. Kornberg's father, Arthur Kornberg, won a Nobel Prize in medicine in 1959, also for work in genetics.
The Kornbergs are the sixth father and son to both win Nobel Prizes. One father and daughter Pierre Curie and IrGene Joliot-Curie won Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry, respectively. Marie Curie - IrGene's mother and Pierre's wife - won two Nobel prizes, for chemistry and physics.
Roger Kornberg's work produced a detailed picture of transcription in eukaryotes, the group of organisms that includes humans and other mammals, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its citation.
Kornberg described how information is taken from genes and converted to molecules called messenger RNA. These molecules shuttle the information to the cells' protein-making machinery.
Proteins in turn serve as building blocks and workhorses of the cell, vital to its structure and functions.
The 59 year old is a member of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. Kornberg is the lone winner of the 2006 chemistry prize, and the fifth American to win a Nobel prize this year. So far, all the prizes - medicine, physics and chemistry - have gone to Americans.
Information for this report is provided by AP.