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3 Scientists Share Nobel Prize For Chemistry

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Three scientists have shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their work that led to the development of linking molecules together, known as click chemistry, and bioorthogonal chemistry.

Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry - click chemistry - in which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently. Carolyn R. Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new dimension and started utilising it in living organisms, including to map cells. Her bioorthogonal reactions are now contributing to more targeted cancer treatments, among many other applications, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Wednesday.

Chemists have long been driven by the desire to build increasingly complicated molecules. In pharmaceutical research, this has often involved artificially recreating natural molecules with medicinal properties. This has led to many admirable molecular constructions, but these are generally time consuming and very expensive to produce.

"This year's Prize in Chemistry deals with not overcomplicating matters, instead working with what is easy and simple. Functional molecules can be built even by taking a straightforward route," Johan Åqvist, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry said.

Barry Sharpless is being awarded his second Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He previously won the coveted prize in 2001.

Around the year 2000, Sharpless coined the concept of click chemistry, which is a form of simple and reliable chemistry, where reactions occur quickly and unwanted by-products are avoided.

Shortly afterwards, Meldal and Sharpless - independently of each other - presented what is now the crown jewel of click chemistry: the copper catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition. This is an elegant and efficient chemical reaction that is now in widespread use. Among many other uses, it is utilized in the development of pharmaceuticals, for mapping DNA and creating materials that are more fit for purpose.

Carolyn Bertozzi took click chemistry to a new level. To map important but elusive biomolecules on the surface of cells - glycans - she developed click reactions that work inside living organisms. Her bioorthogonal reactions take place without disrupting the normal chemistry of the cell.

These reactions are now used globally to explore cells and track biological processes. Using bioorthogonal reactions, researchers have improved the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals, which are now being tested in clinical trials.

Click chemistry and bioorthogonal reactions have taken chemistry into the era of functionalism. This is bringing the greatest benefit to humankind, the Academy said in a press release.

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, born 1966 in the United States, is a Professor at Stanford University, CA.

Morten Meldal, born 1954 in Denmark, is a Professor at University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Barry Sharpless, born 1941 in the U.S., is a Professor at Scripps Research, La Jolla, CA.

The laureates will equally share the prize amount of 10 million Swedish kronor, or $0.90 million.

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