The Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to an American-Danish trio, including an extremely rare double winner

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to an American-Danish trio, including an extremely rare double winner

They have opened up new areas of modern chemistry: the 2022 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.

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 the first at the beginning of the 20th century (Physics 1903, Chemistry 1911), followed by the American Linus Pauling (Chemistry 1954 and Peace 1962), the American John Bardeen (Physics 1956 and 1972) 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.

The latter is used in particular to develop pharmaceutical treatments, map DNA or create new materials.

American Carolyn Bertozzi, 55, is sacred for inventing “bioorthogonal” chemistry, a chemical reaction that can be initiated in a living organism but without disturbing or altering its chemical nature.

The jury praised it as having “brought click chemistry to a new level”.

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

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.

– plus simple –

“This year’s chemistry prize is about things that are not overly complicated, but about using what is easy and simple,” said Johan Åqvist, member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

Modern chemistry tries to make molecules that are increasingly complex, but also longer and more expensive to invent.

With click and bioorthogonal chemistry, “efficient molecules can be built by following an obvious path,” the Swedish scientist said.

“It was a big shock for me, my legs almost trembled afterwards,” said the Danish winner, who also owns the Swedish public radio SR.

“I am very happy to share this award with them both because they have done really great things in this field,” he said.

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

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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