Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in creating a “smart tool for building molecules”.
The trio won the award for creating and advancing the fields of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry, which “has revolutionized the way chemists think about binding molecules together,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
Click chemistry enables fast, direct reactions where “molecular building blocks are quickly assembled,” the committee said. The principle could lead to real-world benefits in the development of pharmaceuticals and medicine, including more targeted cancer treatments.
Sharpless and Meldal pioneered the concept before Bertozzi “took click chemistry to a new level,” the organizers said, by developing click reactions that work inside living organisms (or bioorthogonal reactions).
At the press conference of the winners, he told reporters by phone that his advances are being used “to discover new types of molecules that we didn’t know about” and that scientists are “doing chemistry inside human patients to get drugs in the right place.”
Bertozzi, who teaches at Stanford University in California, said he was notified of his win on America’s west coast in the middle of the night. “I can barely breathe,” she said of her reaction.
Sharpless, meanwhile, became the fifth person to win two Nobels, joining a short list that includes pioneering chemists Marie Curie and Frederick Sanger. He previously won the chemistry award in 2001.
Novels are being given throughout the week; the medicine and physics prizes were awarded on Monday and Tuesday.
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