Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to developers of new molecular construction tool

Benjamin List, David MacMillan jointly win prize for first-ever non-metal, non-enzyme molecule for 'organocatalysis'.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to developers of new molecular construction tool

Two scientists jointly won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of "asymmetric organocatalysis," the Nobel Assembly at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced in Stockholm on Wednesday.

Scientists Benjamin List and David MacMillan were jointly awarded the prize for the development of this precise new tool for molecular construction, which had "a great impact on pharmaceutical research, and has made chemistry greener," Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Secretary General Goran K. Hansson announced.

A statement by the assembly said that in 2000, the laureates independently developed a type of catalysis, a process that boosts the speed of a chemical reaction with a substance known as a catalyst, that uses neither metals nor enzymes, marking a first in the field. Dubbed asymmetric organocatalysis, this process builds upon small organic molecules.

"I absolutely didn't expect this surprise," List said, connecting to the teleconference and saying that he thought the news that he had received the prize was "a joke."

He added that his favorite aspect of this molecule was that it is being edible and completely harmless to the human body.

In a statement, head of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, Johan Aqvist, said: "This concept for catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we didn't think of it earlier."

The Nobel Prizes in the fields of literature, peace, and economics are expected to be presented to the winners by Oct. 11.

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier and US scientist Jennifer A. Doudna "for the development of a method for genome editing" using CRISPR technology.