"Benjamin List and David MacMillan, respectively based in Germany and the US,
will share the 10 million Swedish kronor (£870,000) Nobel prize in chemistry
2021 for their development of “organocatalysis” – a precise tool for
constructing molecules which has boosted pharmaceutical research and made
chemistry greener and cheaper.
Their research dates back to 2000, when the chemists independently developed
the first steps of what today is called “asymmetric organocatalysis”, which is
the activation of chemical reactions by small organic molecules.
Many technologies and areas of research rely on molecules that have to be
created in chemical reactions. These can, unfortunately, be very slow, which is
why chemists often use catalysts – materials that speed up chemical reactions.
Before the work of List and MacMillan, there were only two types of catalysts
available: metals or enzymes. In my opinion, the duo’s most important
achievement was spotting something that nobody believed possible: that small
organic molecules such as amino acids could also work as catalysts."
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*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics