US duo and Dane win Nobel for ‘click chemistry’

Published October 6, 2022
Carolyn Bertozzi
Morten Meldal
Barry Sharpless
Carolyn Bertozzi Morten Meldal Barry Sharpless

STOCKHOLM: A trio of scientists from the United States and Denmark won the Nobel Chemistry Prize on Wednesday for laying the foundation for a more functional form of chemistry where molecules are linked together.

Americans Carolyn Bertozzi and Barry Sharpless, together with Denmark’s Morten Meldal, were honoured “for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry”, the jury said.

Bertozzi is the only woman among the seven Nobel laureates honoured so far this year, with women vastly under-represented in the history of the prizes, especially in the science disciplines.

The chemist — who as an undergraduate at Harvard played keyboards in a band called Bored of Education with future Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello — is only the eighth woman to win a Nobel Chemistry Prize, out of 189 recipients. Speaking, Bertozzi conceded she didn’t have the musical talent of her former bandmate. “So I think I chose the right path. Especially today,” she said.

Benjamin Schumann, a chemist as London’s Imperial College and former student in Bertozzi’s lab, however said she was still known as “the rock star of sciences”.

The award marks the second Nobel for 81-year-old Sharpless, who won in chemistry in 2001.

Only four other individuals have achieved the feat of winning two Nobel Prizes, including Polish-born Frenchwoman Marie Curie, who won the chemistry prize in 1911 after first winning the physics prize in 1903. Click chemistry “is an elegant and efficient chemical reaction that is now in widespread use,” the jury said in a statement.

“Among many other uses, it is utilised in the development of pharmaceuticals,for mapping DNA and creating materials that are more fit for purpose,” it added.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2022

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