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The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded Wednesday for work on “an ingenious tool for building molecules.”
Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless, Nobel laureates for founding and advancing the fields of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry, which “initiated a revolution in how chemists think about connecting molecules”, Sweden Royal Academy of Sciences says.
Click chemistry enables fast and straightforward reactions in which “molecular building blocks come together quickly,” the committee said. The principle could lead to real-world benefits for the development of drugs and medicine, including more targeted cancer treatments.
Before Bertozzi took click chemistry to the next level, Sharpless and Meldal pioneered the concept by developing click reactions (or bioorthogonal reactions) that work in organisms, organizers say.
Angela Wilson, president of the American Chemical Society, told CNN on Wednesday that Click Chemistry brought two molecules together “almost like a few Lego bricks.”
“Bertozzi is responsible for doing click chemistry in the human body, which is absolutely remarkable,” Wilson said. “Together, the trio has opened new doors for us, from medicinal chemistry to materials chemistry,” she added, and their work is already being used in manufacturing.
Bertozzi told reporters by phone at the winners’ news conference that her advances are being used to “discover new types of molecules that we didn’t know existed,” meaning scientists are “doing chemical studies in human patients to get drugs into the right place.” The place.”
The Stanford professor said she was told in the middle of the night of her West Coast victory. “I could barely breathe,” she said of her reaction. “I’m still not entirely sure this is true.”
Meanwhile, Sharpless, a chemistry professor at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, became the fifth person ever to win two Nobel Prizes, joining pioneering chemists Marie Curie and Frederick. A shortlist that includes K. Sanger.
Sharpless proposed the concept of click chemistry in 2001, the same year he won the first Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Working independently, Sharpless and Meldal at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark came up with what the Nobel committee called a “brilliant reaction” synonymous with click chemistry, which involves a catalytic reaction between an azide and an alkyne.
“If chemists want to link two different molecules, they can now introduce an azide in one molecule and an alkyne in the other with relative ease. They then combine these molecules with the help of some copper ions. together,” the Nobel committee said in a document explaining the reasons for their award.
“It’s used to modify materials, for example, if you want them to conduct electricity or collect light or modify surfaces to become antibacterial,” explains Johan Elf, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a member of the committee that decided the honor.
Bertozzi developed click reactions that can be used in living organisms — because they don’t involve toxic copper ions. She focuses on glycans—complex carbohydrates composed of various sugars, usually located on the surface of proteins and cells.
The Nobel committee explained that they play an important role in many biological processes, such as when viruses infect cells or activate the immune system.
Her bioorthogonal reactions — which occur without interfering with the normal chemistry of cells — are used globally to map cellular function. Some researchers are now studying how these responses can be used to diagnose and treat cancer.
“Potentially, you can direct radiolabels to cancer cells, and you can potentially deliver toxic or radioactive compounds to kill cancer cells. It’s also used to direct enzymes to cancer cells, removing the carbohydrate layer so that the immune system can Cancer cells can be seen,” Elf told CNN.
Nobel Prizes are awarded within a week; Medicine and Physics prizes are announced on Mondays and Tuesdays. Bertozzi is the only female scientist to win a Nobel Prize in Science this year after an all-male lineup in 2021.
The three winners will share a prize worth USD 915,000 (SEK 10 million).