2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to trio that developed creative tool for building molecules | Science

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless are the winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday (5).

Bertozzi and Sharpless are Americans. Meldal is Danish. Yet, Bertozzi is the only woman to have won the award this year. Sharpless, on the other hand, is receiving a Nobel for the second time (he had already received the same award in 2001, for other work in the area).

They will share the prize which totals 10 million Swedish kronor (about R$ 4.8 million).

The group won the Nobel Prize for creating a creative tool for building molecules with “the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry”.

Among many other practical applications, the trio’s work has allowed cancer treatments to be more targetedsaid the Nobel committee.

This year’s Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry. — Photo: The Nobel Prize

Using this chemical call of the click, more precise pharmaceutical products can be developed, “ensuring that medicines can reach the correct places in the body of patients”, Bertozzi said, by telephone, during the press conference that announced the award.

The findings “laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry,” the committee added. “As a result, humanity benefits the most.”

Last year, the Chemistry award went to two scientists who developed a tool for building molecules with less environmental impact. Since 1901, more than one hundred people have been laureates. The scientific distinction was not awarded only on eight occasions: in 1916, 1917, 1919, 1924, 1933, 1940, 1941 and 1942.

By 2021, however, of the 187 people awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, only 7 were women. Among them, Polish scientist Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel.

  • SCIENTISTS: Women make up just 5% of Nobel Prize winners since 1901
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  • Carolyn R. Bertozzi was born in 1966 in the United States. In 1993, she received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley (USA).
  • Morten Meldal was born in 1954 in Denmark. In 1986, he received his doctorate from the Technical University of Denmark. He is currently a professor at the University of Copenhagen, also in Denmark.
  • Barry Sharpless was born in 1941 in Philadelphia (USA). In 1968, he received his doctorate from Stanford University (USA). In 2001, he won his first Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

the laurel in Medicine was the first to be announced, on the second (3). The Physics one was released on Tuesday (4).

The awards in Literature and Peace will be delivered later this week; already the laurel in Economy will be released next Monday (10). See the schedule:

  • Medicine: Monday, October 3
  • Physical: Tuesday, October 4
  • Chemistry: Wednesday, October 5
  • Literature: Thursday, October 6th
  • Peace: Friday, October 7
  • Economy: Monday, October 10

See below for questions and answers about the award.

The laurel was created by chemist and entrepreneur Alfred Nobel. Inventor of dynamite in 1867, the Swede donated most of his fortune in his will to create prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace (the economics prize was created years later).

The document said that the prizes should be awarded “to those who, during the previous year, have bestowed the greatest benefit on humanity”.

A bust of Nobel Prize founder Alfred Nobel on display during the 2018 award ceremony in Stockholm. — Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via AP, File

However, nowadays, as explained by Juleen Zierath, a member of the Karolinska Institute -the jury for the Nobel Prize in Medicine-, this rule is no longer taken to the letter.

“You may have made this discovery at a very early stage in your research career, or you may have made this discovery at a very late stage in your research career,” she points out.

How is the prize chosen?

Every year, the Nobel Committee sends a nomination request to members of the scientific community.

This means that some eligible candidates receive a special invitation to submit their names. Without this invitation, no postulant can compete for the prize.

“You cannot nominate yourself, but members of scientific communities, deans of faculties of Medicine [no caso do prêmio na área]former Nobel laureates and others working in the broader scientific field who have received this request can make a nomination,” says Zierath.

How many people can share the same prize?

Up to three people can share a Nobel Prize, or one organization can win the Peace Laureate.

The Nobel Foundation, responsible for carrying out the wishes of its founder, points out that this rule is described in Alfred Nobel’s will.

The Nobel Prize Medal. — Photo: Angela Weiss/Pool Photo via AP, File

“In no case may the prize amount be divided between more than three people”, highlights a portion of the document. Some researchers, however, criticize this choice and claim that scientific discoveries today are much more collective: the work of several researchers.

Can the laurel be awarded posthumously? Is there an age limit?

No, a Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously.

Despite this, the Foundation emphasizes that, since 1974, if the recipient of the award dies after the announcement, the laurel may still be awarded.

About the age limit, the prize also doesn’t have a rule about it.

“What I would say is that, most of the time, it takes many years for the scientific field to recognize that the discovery you made is a distinction that should be considered for a Nobel Prize. So sometimes you have to be quite patient. “, emphasizes Zierath.

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