The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022 was awarded jointly to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K. Barry Sharpless "for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry."
According to the Swedish Royal Academy of Science, Barry Sharpless at Scripps Research in California, and Morten Meldal at the University of Copenhagen, have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry – click chemistry – in which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently.
While Carolyn Bertozzi at Stanford University "has taken click chemistry to a new dimension" and started utilizing it in a living organism.
"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," according to the press release.
Around 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.
Independently of each other, Meldal and Sharpless later presented what is now the base of click chemistry — the copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition, an 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.
Bertozzi developed click reactions that work inside living organisms to map important but elusive biomolecules on the surface of cells – glycans. 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," the press release says.
The Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 202