The Nobel prize for “click chemistry”, with an extremely rare double winner

published on Wednesday, October 05, 2022 at 14:54

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).

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.

“Carolyn Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new level,” praised the Nobel jury.

“I’m absolutely amazed. I’m sitting there and I can hardly breathe,” said the winner along with the organizers.

She is the eighth woman to win the chemistry prize, following French Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer Doudna (2020).

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.

“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.

“You can really see it as a Lego game. The +click chemistry+ is like putting two Lego bricks together,” emphasizes the specialist.

– Legs are shaking –

“Start-ups are starting to use these technologies, but I think we’re just at the beginning of their use. I think it’s going to revolutionize everything from medicine to materials,” she adds.

The Danish winner admitted his “great shock” when he received the famous phone call from Stockholm just before the announcement.

“My legs were shaking afterward,” Morten Meldal told Swedish public radio SR, saying he was delighted to share this award with the two because they had done a really great job in this field.

With “new architectures of molecules,” their discoveries enable breakthroughs “in materials science, in surface science, in chemistry in general, and in the pharmaceutical industry,” he emphasized.

Last year, German Benjamin List and Briton David Macmillan were chemistry saints for inventing a new type of catalyst to make new molecules cheaper and cleaner.

Like the other Nobel prizes, the chemistry prize is endowed with 10 million crowns (around 920,000 euros), which will be shared among other winners.

On Monday, Svante Pääbo, father of Denisova’s husband and discoverer of Neanderthal man’s DNA, was crowned for his founding work in a new science called paleogenomics.

On Tuesday, Alain Aspect, Anton Zeilinger and John Clauser received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discoveries of the revolutionary mechanism of “quantum entanglement,” proving Albert Einstein wrong about this unlikely phenomenon of quantum mechanics.

The week continues with the two most anticipated awards, Thursday’s Literature Prize and Friday’s Peace, the only prize awarded in Oslo. Then the most recent economy price, Monday.

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