Two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 for discovering a new type catalyst that revolutionized the development of drugs.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences presented the award worth 10m Swedish Kronor (870,000) to David MacMillan from Scotland.
Independently, the two scientists discovered that organic molecules could be used as catalysts in chemistry. This is a key tool used in chemistry to accelerate reactions. There were only two types of catalysts before the discovery: metals or enzymes.
The process was widely used since MacMillan and Lists' 2000 discovery of asymmetrical organocatalysis. This includes the development of pharmaceuticals and construction of solar panels. Organic catalysts can also be produced cheaply and are environmentally friendly.
List spoke at a press conference in Amsterdam on Wednesday, saying that he was humbled by the award, even though he initially thought someone was making fun of him when the Swedish code flashed on his phone screen Wednesday morning.
This experiment was my first. I wasn't sure what it would turn out to be. He said that he didn't know if it was stupid or if it had been done before. It worked and I thought: This could be a big deal.
Gran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, stated that he hadn't yet been able to speak with MacMillan who is based at Princeton University. He had sent an email and left voicemails.
Professor Tom Welton, president of Royal Society of Chemistry, stated that the discovery had had a significant impact. The field has tremendous potential to develop new chemical synthesis routes in future. This will allow for better medicine, high-tech materials, and many other applications that can improve our lives. This award is well-deserved and I am very happy to receive it.
This announcement comes after the Nobel prize for physiology/medicine was awarded to two US scientists Monday for their work in the sense of touch. The Nobel prize for physics was awarded to three scientists Tuesday for their contributions in understanding complex physical systems including the Earth's climate.