Nobel Prize awarded to molecule construction champions

pharmafile | October 7, 2021 | News story | Business Services  

Benjamin List and David MacMillan have been awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry, for their construction of a tool used for building molecules. This tool has helped develop new drugs, bolstering the pharmaceutical industry considerably.

Professor List is a German scientist and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, while Professor MacMillan is a US-based professor at Princeton University, US. Although the two worked independently of one another, they have been jointly awarded this prize.

Prior to the work of these two scientists, there were only two types of catalysts available: metals or enzymes, according to The Conversation. List and MacMillan discovered a process called “assymetric organocatalysis”, which is the activation of chemical reactions by small organic molecules. This enabled pharmaceutical companies to avoid using metals as catalysts, making it easier for them to purify compounds.

As described by Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the chemistry Nobel committee, their discoveries “initiated a totally new way of thinking for how to put together chemical molecules”.

The Nobel Committee added that the technique had “taken molecular construction to an entirely new level”.

Wittung-Stafshede added: “This new toolbox is used widely today, for example in drug discovery, and in fine chemicals production, and is already benefiting humankind greatly.”

Phillip Broadwith, Business Editor of Chemistry World, said: “This is a fantastically important piece of chemistry and these two are undoubtedly leaders in that field.”

Despite this incredible achievement, it is important to still recognise that out of the total 187 individuals who have received the chemistry prize since it was first awarded in 1901, only seven of these laureates have been women.

Lina Adams

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