Nobel in chemistry honours pair for new way of building molecules

Scientists Benjamin List and David WC MacMillan recognised for developing a new type of catalyst to accelerate chemical reactions.

The Nobel Prize for chemistry has been awarded to German scientist Benjamin List of the Max Planck Institute and Scotland-born scientist David WC MacMillan of Princeton University.

The two scientists’ work had advanced pharmaceutical research and “made chemistry greener”, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement on Wednesday as it announced the winners.

List and MacMillan, working independently of each other, had developed a new type of catalyst to accelerate chemical reactions called asymmetric organocatalysis. Such catalysts are essential in molecular construction, the academy 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,” said Johan Aqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

It is common for several scientists who work in related fields to share the prize. Last year, the prize went to Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A Doudna of the United States for developing a gene-editing tool that has revolutionised science by providing a way to alter DNA.

The prestigious award comes with a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (more than $1.1m). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize in physiology or medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded on Tuesday to three scientists – US-Japanese scientist Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann of Germany and Giorgio Parisi of Italy – for climate models and the understanding of physical systems.

Over the coming days, prizes will also be awarded for outstanding work in the fields of literature, peace and economics.



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