Portraits of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winners, G a D Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and Barry Sharpless, will be on display at the announcement of the jury’s decision in Stockholm on October 5, 2022 (AFP / Jonathan NACKSTRAND)
They have opened up new areas of chemistry with a “Lego”: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was crowned on Wednesday by the Dane Morten Meldal, the American Carolyn Bertozzi and her compatriot Barry Sharpless, who managed the extremely rare feat of winning a second Nobel Prize at the age of 21 a part.
The trio is honored “for the development of +click chemistry+ and bioorthogonal chemistry”, which is used in particular to develop the best pharmaceutical therapies, including those against cancer, the jury announced in its decision.
Barry Sharpless, 81, is only the fifth person to win a Nobel Prize twice. In 2001 he had already won the chemistry prize for his discoveries on the technology of asymmetric catalysis.
The Franco-Polish Marie Curie was early 20 ) and the British Frederick Sanger (Chemistry 1958 and 1980).
Graphic showing winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (AFP/)
The two-time winner from California and the 58-year-old Dane Morten Meldal from the University of Copenhagen will be crowned for their pioneering work in “click chemistry”, a new way of connecting molecules, explained the jury.
– Eighth woman in chemistry –
The latter is used in particular to develop pharmaceutical treatments, map DNA or create new materials.
American Carolyn Bertozzi, 55, is credited with inventing “bioorthogonal” chemistry, a series of chemical reactions that can be initiated in a living organism but without disrupting its chemical nature.
“You can take two Legos and click them together even if they’re surrounded by millions of similar toy pieces. And they won’t click together,” explained the winner, who developed the technique from the 1990s, in an interview with AFP.
“Carolyn Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new level,” praised the jury.
Carolyn Bertozzi, co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, poses with her award at the Solvay Prize for Future Chemistry in Brussels March 10, 2020 ( BELGA / BENOIT DOPPAGNE )
The Stanford professor is the eighth woman in 121 years as a Nobel laureate to receive the chemistry prize, following the French Emmanuelle Charpentier and the American Jennifer Doudna (2020).
“I’m happy to increase that number a bit. I understand the severity as I’ve been an underrepresented person in science all my life,” the honoree told AFP.
The American has been nicknamed the “rock star of science,” Benjamin Schumann, an Imperial College chemist who did his PhD in his lab, told AFP.
Both for her “absolute genius,” he explains, and for being on keyboards in a group called “Bored of Education,” where she played with future Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello .
After a very male 2021 (12 men and one woman, none for the scientific awards), the year 2022 had continued this trend so far, with the Nobel Prizes of the Swede Svante Päabo in Medicine and Alain Aspect (France), John Clauser (USA) and Anton Zeilinger (Austria) in Physics.
Barry Sharpless, co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; October 10, 2001 in La Jolla, California (USA) (AFP / ANDREW SILK)
“We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg, but their chemistry is going to change the world,” Angela Wilson, president of the American Chemical Society, told AFP.
– Legs are shaking –
“Start-ups are starting to use these technologies, but I think we are just at the beginning of the applications. I think it will revolutionize everything from medicine to materials,” she said.
At a press conference, the Danish winner told of his “big surprise” when he received the famous call from Stockholm shortly before the announcement.
Morten Meldal, co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, addresses reporters at the University of Copenhagen on October 5, 2022 (Ritzau Scanpix/Philip Davali)
The day before, he and his students had voted on who would receive the Nobel Prize this year, and Bertozzi won.
“So she got the award last night (Tuesday) and I got it today (Wednesday),” he jokes.
Like the other Nobel prizes, the chemistry prize is endowed with 10 million crowns (around 920,000 euros), which are divided among the co-winners.
Nobel Week continues with the two most anticipated awards, the Literature Prize on Thursday and Peace on Friday, the only prize to be awarded in Oslo. Then the most recent economy price, Monday.