The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Caroline R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and C. Barry Sharpless. They were awarded for the development of “click chemistry” (chemical reactions that make it possible to obtain given molecules under any conditions) and bioorthogonal reactions (capable of occurring inside living systems without interfering with natural biochemical processes). Messrs. Sharpless and Meldal laid the foundation for click chemistry, and Ms. Bertozzi began to apply it to living organisms.
For Barry Sharpless, this is the second Nobel Prize – he received the first in 2001, together with Ryoji Noyori and William Knowles. They were awarded for the creation of “chiral catalysts for redox reactions” (these studies are used in the pharmaceutical industry). In 2000, he came up with the concept of “click chemistry” in which “reactions proceed quickly and unwanted by-products are eliminated”, according to press release Nobel committee. In 2001 the scientist listed there are several criteria that must be met in order for a chemical reaction to be called “click chemistry”: in particular, the reaction must take place with the participation of oxygen and in water.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Sharpless and Morten Meldal, independently of each other, were able to show the reaction between azides and alkynes – azide-alkyne cycloaddition with copper-containing catalysts. Experts call it the “pearl of click chemistry”: now this chemical reaction is used, for example, in the development of pharmaceuticals, to map DNA (a method for constructing genetic maps) and create the materials necessary for this.
Carolyn Bertozzi has taken click chemistry “to a new level,” according to the Nobel Committee. To map “important but elusive” biomolecules on the surface of cells – glycans – she was able to achieve reactions that occur inside living organisms. In the course of such bioorthogonal reactions, the chemical composition of the cell is not disturbed. “These reactions are now being used around the world to study cells and track biological processes. With the help of bioorthogonal reactions, researchers have improved the dosage of cancer drugs, this method is now undergoing clinical trials, ”the committee said.
In 2021, the German Benjamin List and the American David Macmillan became Nobel Prize winners. They received the award for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis. In addition to the existing ways to speed up chemical reactions involving metals and enzymes, scientists have discovered a third type of catalysis – using amino acids and other organic substances.
Details – in the material “b-Nauka” “Environmentally friendly catalysis”.