The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Americans Carolyn Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless and Dane Morten P. Meldal “for the development of “click chemistry” and bioorthogonal chemistry”, two new fields of modern chemistry, announced this Wednesday, October 5, the Royal Academy of Sciences. Barry Sharpless achieves the rare feat of winning a second Nobel.
At 81, Barry Sharpless is only the fifth person to win a Nobel twice. He had already won the prize for chemistry in 2001 for his discoveries on the technique of asymmetric catalysis. The French-Polish Marie Curie had been the first at the beginning of the 20th centuryme 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).
Barry Sharpless, of California, and Dane Morten Meldal, 58, of the University of Copenhagen, are hailed for their pioneering work in “click chemistry”, a new way of combining molecules, explained the Nobel jury. This is used in particular to develop pharmaceutical treatments, map DNA or create new materials.
“An Obvious Way”
American Carolyn Bertozzi, 55, is celebrated for the invention of bioorthogonal chemistry, a chemical reaction described as capable of being initiated in a living organism, but without disturbing or changing its chemical nature. “I am absolutely amazed. I’m sitting here and it’s hard to breathe”, confided the winner accompanied by the jury. She becomes the eighth woman to win the chemistry prize, succeeding French Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer Doudna (2020).
“This year’s Chemistry Prize is about things that are not too complicated, but use what is easy and simple”said Johan Åqvist, one of the members of the Nobel committee for chemistry. “Effective molecules can be built by taking an obvious route”greeted with reference to “click chemistry” and chemistry “bioorthogonal”.
Last year, the German Benjamin List and the British David Macmillan were consecrated in chemistry for having invented a new type of catalyst to manufacture new molecules, at a lower cost and in a cleaner way.
After a very masculine 2021 vintage (twelve men and one woman, none for the scientific awards), the year 2022 followed this trend, with the Swedish Svante Päabo and Alain Aspect (France), John Clauser (USA) and Anton Zeilinger (Austria) in physics. Like the other Nobel prizes, the one in chemistry is endowed with 10 million crowns (about 920,000 euros), to be distributed in the case of co-winners.
The Nobel Prizes 2022