The 2021 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded on Wednesday 6 October in Stockholm to the German Benjamin List and the American David MacMillan for having developed a new tool for constructing molecules which made it possible to “Green” chemistry and improve pharmaceutical research. The duo were awarded “For the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”, announced the Nobel jury in Stockholm.
Catalysts – substances that control and speed up chemical reactions, but are not part of the end product – are fundamental tools for chemists. But researchers have long believed that there are, in principle, only two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes.
Benjamin List and David MacMillan, both 53, “Receive the Nobel Prize for having, independently of one another, developed a third type of catalysis, asymmetric organocatalysis, a field that has developed” at a prodigious speed since the 2000s, explained the Nobel jury.
BREAKING NEWS: The 2021 #NobelPrize in Chemistry has been awarded to Benjamin List and David WC MacMillan “for t… https://t.co/Ggus6hf7Bq
“More freedom of research”
“I thought I was the only one at the time to work on the subject, I did not know that David MacMillan was also on this track. When I saw that it was working, I immediately thought it would be important, but certainly not that much ”, reacted Benjamin List.
“My favorite catalyst is proline, the first one I discovered. It is an element that can be eaten, it is slightly sweet. But the catalysts we are creating today are of equal interest to me. “
“What impact will the Nobel have on my research? I like to go to extremes, which has yet to be explored. This will give me even more research freedom than I already have in my institute. I hope to live up to this award in the future ”, the researcher said again.
Benjamin List directs the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, a research institute specializing in catalysis, and David MacMillan teaches chemistry at the American University of Princeton. The two winners will share equally the sum of 10 million Swedish crowns (990,000 euros).
They succeed French geneticist and microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American biochemist Jennifer Doudna, awarded in 2020 for “Molecular scissors”, capable of altering human genes, a revolutionary breakthrough.
A little early to reward messenger RNA
Breakthroughs in DNA sequencing, nanocrystals, “Chemistry-click” or the pioneers of messenger RNA vaccines against Covid were notably among the speculations for this year. With well over a billion people worldwide vaccinated with products using messenger RNA, their contribution “For the benefit of humanity” required by the Nobel will is not in doubt. But many believe that it was a bit early for the generally very cautious Nobel Assembly, and that they will wait for the next few years.
The Nobel season continues Thursday with literature, before peace Friday and economics Monday. The prestigious award is the third of the season after the Nobel Prize in Medicine, which was awarded Monday to two specialists in the nervous system and touch, the Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, whose work paved the way to combat chronic pain and the Nobel Prize in Physics attributed Tuesday to two experts in the physical modeling of climate change, the American-Japanese Syukuro Manabe and the German Klaus Hasselmann, as well as to the Italian Giorgio Parisi, theorist of complex physical systems.
The more recently created savings prize will close the season on Monday.