3 scientists share 2022 Nobel Chemistry Prize

Members of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry (center, left to right) Chair Professor of Theoretical Chemistry Johan Aqvist and Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Hans Ellegren listen to Professor in Chemistry Olof Ramstrom during a press conference to announce the winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, on Oct 5, 2022. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP)

STOCKHOLM – Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless from the United States and Morten Meldal from Denmark shared the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday.

Sharpless and Meldal have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry, click chemistry, in which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently.

This year's prize amount is 10 million Swedish kronor (about US$920,000), to be shared equally between the three laureates

Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new dimension and started utilizing it in living organisms, the academy said in a statement.

"This year's Prize in Chemistry deals with not overcomplicating matters, instead working with what is easy and simple. Functional molecules can be built even by taking a straightforward route," said Johan Aqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

"I can hardly breathe!" Bertozzi said in the onsite telephone interview of her reactions. Of hearing the news in the middle of the night, she said, "a shock is an understatement!"

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Around the year 2000, Sharpless created the concept of click chemistry, which is a form of simple and reliable chemistry, where reactions occur quickly and unwanted by-products are avoided.

Shortly afterwards, Meldal and Sharpless — independently of each other — presented what is now the crown jewel of click chemistry: the copper catalysed azide-alkyne cycloaddition, an elegant and efficient chemical reaction that is now in widespread use, such as in the development of pharmaceuticals, for mapping DNA and creating materials that are more fit for purpose, the statement said.

Bertozzi took click chemistry to a new level, said the statement. To map important but elusive biomolecules on the surface of cells, glycans, she developed click reactions that work inside living organisms. Her bioorthogonal reactions take place without disrupting the normal chemistry of the cell, it added.

According to the statement, these reactions are now used globally to explore cells and track biological processes. Using bioorthogonal reactions, researchers have improved the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals, which are now being tested in clinical trials. Click chemistry and bioorthogonal reactions have taken chemistry into the era of functionalism, bringing the greatest benefit to humankind, it noted.

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Bertozzi, born in 1966 in the United States, is a professor at Stanford University in the United States. Meldal, born in 1954 in Denmark, is a professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Sharpless, born in 1941 in the United States, is a professor at Scripps Research in the United States.

This year's prize amount is 10 million Swedish kronor (about US$920,000), to be shared equally between the three laureates.

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