Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded for a simple way to create complex substances

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The award went to three

scientists who laid the foundations and application of a new functional technology, with the help of which complex molecules can be created from simple elements, as from building blocks.

Chemists have long been driven by the desire to create more and morecomplex molecules, the Nobel Committee explains its decision. In pharmaceutical research, this is often associated with the artificial re-creation of natural molecules with medicinal properties. There are many technologies that allow the creation of such molecules, but, as a rule, they are time-consuming, complex and costly.

The founder of a new technology - click chemistry -was Barry Sharpless, a researcher at Stanford University. This is his second prize, the first time he was awarded a high award along with other scientists in 2001 "for research used in the pharmaceutical industry." Around 2000, a researcher came up with the concept of click chemistry, which is a form of simple and robust chemistry where reactions are fast and unwanted by-products are eliminated.

Scheme of azide-alkyne cycloaddition. Image: Johan Jamestad, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Shortly thereafter, Sharpless himself and a Danish scientistMorten Meldal independently figured out how to turn a theoretical concept into reality. They developed a copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition technology. This simple reaction has found wide application in practice. For example, it is used in the development of pharmaceuticals, for DNA mapping and the creation of materials with desired properties.

The third laureate is an American researcherCarolyn Bertozzi - modified click chemistry to work with biomolecules. She has developed reactions that work within living organisms to map glycans, important but elusive biomolecules on the surface of cells. The technology proposed by the scientists makes it possible to study cells without disturbing the natural processes that take place in them.

Pictures of glycans on the cell surface obtained using the technology proposed by Bertozzi. Image: Baskin et al., PNAS

The prize of 10 million SEK will be divided equally among all laureates.

Read more:

Catapult sends NASA satellites into the sky

A giant magnetic storm is approaching Earth

Giant 'scar' on Earth's surface shown from space

Cover image: Johan Jarnestad/The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences