Three scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work linking molecules together. This is known as “click chemistry”.
Morten Meldal and Carolyn Bertozzi’s work allow molecules to connect together like Lego pieces.
It is used to develop cancer treatments and target tumour cells directly.
This work changed the way chemistry is done. It made it easier and more efficient.
Carolyn Bertozzi is eighth woman to win Chemistry Nobel. She pioneered bioorthogonal Chemistry that connects living cells.
“I am absolutely stunned. Professor Bertozzi, speaking from the USA when she was called by the Nobel Committee in the middle night, said that “I can’t breathe.”
The Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prize has been awarded twice to Professor Barry Sharpless (also from the US). The Nobel Prize was first awarded in 2001 to Professor Barry Sharpless for his work on chiral catalysts.
Dane Professor Morten Meldal said that he was shaking for half an hour after finding out he had won.
Although Prof Sharpless and Nobel Professor Meldal were independent, they both contributed to the foundations for “click” chemistry.
It is easy to understand if you think about Lego’s construction. Each piece is made up of bumps and holes. Press them together until they click together.
Professor Alison Hulme, University of Edinburgh, UK explains that click chemistry is the same process.
She explained to BBC News that “Two chemical Nobel partners were perfectly designed to match one another so that when they come in contact with each other, they just click together.”
It was not possible to use it in living cells, which is crucial for understanding diseases.
Professor Bertozzi’s revolutionary discovery enabled click chemistry to work in living cells. Her breakthrough discovery enabled her to bypass copper ions using other reacting components.
She said that scientists can now do “chemistry within the human body to ensure drugs go to the right places and stay away at the wrong places”.
She explains that it is also a “biological Discovery Tool” that allows scientists see new molecules we didn’t know were there.
The Nobel committee recognized the contributions of scientists to making chemistry functional, and stated that they had a tremendous impact on science.
Johan Aqvist (chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry) stated that “this year’s prize is about not complicating matters, but instead working with what it is simple and easy.”
The prize money for the winners is 10 million Swedish Kronas (PS800,000.
Two scientists who created tools to build molecules were also awarded the award last year.
Monday’s award of the Physiology or Medicine Prize to Svante Paabo, for her work on human evolution, was made by the committee.
Tuesday’s Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to quantum mechanics research – the science of understanding nature at its smallest scales.