Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K Barry Sharpless have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022, the latter receiving his second Nobel in his career.

The three were recognized for their work in ‘click chemistry,’ which involves molecules snapping together quickly and firmly without the need for a long, difficult process and a large number of undesired byproducts. Their research has applications in medical science, particularly cancer treatment.

Bertozzi works at Stanford University in California, Sharpless at Scripps Research in California, and Meldal at Copenhagen University in Denmark.


Scientists contribution

“Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022 because they moved chemistry into the era of functionalism and built the foundations of click chemistry,” according to the Nobel Prize website. They share the award with Carolyn Bertozzi, who advanced click chemistry by employing it to map cells. Her bioorthogonal reactions are currently helping to improve cancer treatments, among other things.”

To summarise, Sharpless coined the term ‘click chemistry’ and worked extensively on it; Meldal, independently of Sharpless, discovered a special chemical structure known as ‘triazole,’ which has many important applications; and Bertozzi went on to develop click reactions that could work inside living organisms — ‘bioorthogonal’ reactions (a term she coined), take place inside living systems without interfering with native biochemical processes.

Chemists frequently attempt to replicate complicated chemical molecules found in nature, which has uses in medicine, including how to target and prevent infections in cells. This procedure, however, can be complicated and time-consuming.

“Instead of trying to corral reluctant carbon atoms into reacting with one other, Barry Sharpless encouraged his colleagues to start with smaller molecules that already had a complete carbon frame,” according to the Nobel website.

Chemists can avoid many of the side reactions by using simple reactions in which there is a strong inherent urge for the molecules to link together. Sharpless dubbed this sturdy way of constructing molecules “click chemistry,” claiming that “even if click chemistry cannot give precise duplicates of natural molecules, it will be able to develop molecules that do the same activities.”.

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