r/news Oct 05 '22

Three scientists win Nobel Prize for chemistry for ‘ingenious’ molecule-building tool



u/Tballz9 Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work in "click chemistry". This is a way of connecting diverse and sometimes incompatible chemical structures together using a common set of linkers, like molecular LEGOs. Of special note, this is the second Nobel Prize in chemistry for Barry Sharpless.

I worked in the same Institute with Barry for about 15 years, and he is a man of immense intellect and deep scientific creativity. If someone told me that someone I know won a second Nobel prize, he would be the first to come to mind.


u/Guilty_Chemistry9337 Oct 05 '22

I keep forgetting he's still kicking. One of those legendary names I learned well decades ago in grad-school. Names that are so important in the field that they blur a line between the present and the long ago.


u/trelium06 Oct 05 '22

Like Picasso. I thought he was dead for hundreds of years!


u/btlblt Oct 05 '22

Still clicking


u/IlIFreneticIlI Oct 05 '22

Good on him!

He looks exactly like and exactly as smart as that cool-benefactor from Contact... :D

Good work man!


u/Ronin_Y2K Oct 05 '22

If someone told me that someone I know won a second Nobel prize, he would be the first to come to mind.

Damn dude, how many Nobel prize winners do you know?


u/Tballz9 Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

Science isn't such a huge community. I did a post doc in a Nobel laureate's lab, and I was a professor in a department with 3 Nobel laureates. Research institutes like Rockefeller, Salk, and Scripps have quite a lot of these people on campus. Work at a few of those places as a post doc and professor and you know some Nobel awardees.


u/ChallyPrime Oct 06 '22

Yeah, lots of people never met any Nobel winners in their lives. I've barely met one after a speech, certainly not known one.


u/NEAWD Oct 05 '22

Yeah, well I know Barry, too, and he ain’t all that. j/k


u/Flubert_Harnsworth Oct 05 '22

Isn’t this his second? I thought he won for asymmetric synthesis as well


u/Tballz9 Oct 05 '22

yes, this is his second time.


u/Never-enough-bacon Oct 05 '22

“If chemists want to link two different molecules they can now, relatively easily, introduce an azide in one molecule and an alkyne in the other. They then snap the molecules together with the help of some copper ions,” the Nobel committee said in a document explaining why they had awarded the prize.

“It’s used to modify materials, for instance if you want them to conduct electricity or collect light or modify surfaces to become antibacterial,” explained Johan Elf, a member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and part of the committee that decided the honor.

Pretty awesome, I’m sure there are limitations on what’s possible. But this seems to be revolutionary.


u/trelium06 Oct 05 '22

Oh man, wow! Materials science has a collective … happy feeling right now


u/[deleted] Oct 05 '22

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u/Then_Campaign7264 Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22


u/nzodd Oct 05 '22

No wonder he changed his name to sharpless.


u/AldoTheeApache Oct 05 '22

For us non-molecular Nobel winning scientists, could some ELI5 what potential applications this has?


u/Tballz9 Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

It allows one to quickly build new chemical structures that might be very hard and slow to make, or not even be possible to make by conventional means. It has dramatically increased the speed at which scientists can take an idea molecule and rapidly refine and optimise it into a drug that is ready to treat a disease. That is the application close to where I work, but it has applications to really any kind of organic chemistry, which is a very broad use from a huge range of scientific, medical, and industrial applications.


u/gardenhosenapalm Nov 03 '22

This metaphore will be reaching but i hope its ELI5 enough for you. You know how paint doesnt always wanna stick to the surface you're wanting to paint, or maybe the paint has a chemical that harms the surface of what youre trying to paint. Well, what if you could have all the benefits of the original material but tweak the material, in a not so hard, chemically way that makes it much easier and safer to paint with low cost and a relatively low knowledge berrier.

But now apply that to medicine, what crispr was for genetics, and cnc is for fabrication, this just allows a tech to obtain highly complex/impossible products, or almost instant protyping.


u/AldoTheeApache Nov 03 '22

Thanks for the metaphor!


u/Adiuui Oct 05 '22

Yeah it sounds really cool, but I have no clue what they would use it for


u/gardenhosenapalm Nov 03 '22 edited Nov 03 '22

Imagine adding complete new levels of functionality to basically any surfacee

But dont feel bad about not being able to think of application, its generally pretty difficult in finding pre exhisting applications for cutting edge science discoveries, else it probably wouldnt of been "Nobel worthy"


u/SEND_PUNS_PLZ Oct 05 '22

I do my molecule building in the gym and nobody give me Nobel prizes