Winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Habish Ribin Haneef
Updated on

Did you ever heard about “Click Chemistry”? Well, the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K Barry Sharpless for their extraordinary work in the field of click chemistry. Carolyn R Bertozzi is an American chemist known for her incredible work both in Chemistry and Biology. Morten Meldal is a Danish chemist and a professor of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. K Barry Sharpless is an American chemist. Sharpless won the Nobel Prize for the second time in his career, a historic achievement. Earlier, he won it in 2001 in the same field for his work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions. Sharpless is only the fifth person in history to win the Nobel Prize twice. Marie Curie, John Bardeen, Linus Pauling, and Frederick Sanger were the other four who previously won the great award twice.

The Discovery:


Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K Barry Sharpless have been jointly awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize Award in Chemistry for their work in click chemistry. In click chemistry, the molecules snap together firmly and quickly without the need for any complicated processes and unwanted byproducts. This spectacular work by the trio has many applications in the medical field and has a huge role to play in the treatment of cancer, one of the humongous threats the world is facing right now. Molecules are reacting everywhere around us, they are present in our drinks, phones, and even at our fingertips. The molecular reactions create new molecules and break down the older ones. These reactions also allow energy swaps. Yes, the findings of the trio were based on these molecules and everything started way back in 2001. In 2001, K Barry Sharpless along with his colleagues published a paper based on a new topic- “Click Chemistry.” Sharpless applied this molecular control to the creation of new drug compounds and he was quoted as saying- “all searches must be restricted to molecules that are easy to make and the main focus should be on bonds that form fast and produce stable byproducts.” Soon Sharpless along with Morten Meldal discovered a reaction called “copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition” and it was this reaction that practically implemented Sharpless’s findings. Azides and alkynes are two types of molecules and when they were combined using copper as a catalyst, the reaction was fast and efficient and finally, the product was also stable. Hence, as a result of the copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition reaction, molecules can be easily combined with good speed and accuracy. Next, let’s see the role of Carolyn R Bertozzi in this phenomenal achievement. She started her research even before the term click chemistry was coined. In the 1990s, Carolyn was researching about glycans. Glycans were carbohydrates that can be seen on the surfaces of proteins and cells and during those days, the function of glycans was not perfectly known. This was because the glycans were difficult to track inside living organisms. She used fluorescent molecules to attach glycans so that she can map them while they are moving. But, the molecules used to track glycans could not interfere with the rest of the cell’s functioning. Hence, she introduced the bio-orthogonal method. After years of hard work and research, finally, the bio-orthogonal method got implemented in click chemistry. The bio-orthogonal click chemistry was used to map the internal structures of organisms and the movements of their cells. Carolyn’s colleague Dr Kiessling did research on Tuberculosis using the bio-orthogonal click chemistry method and she told that she was able to visualize classes of carbohydrates that she didn’t see before. The bio-orthogonal click chemistry method can also be used on many other diseases including tumours and has the capability to yield terrific results. Yes, the world is slowly changing and the revolution has begun and click chemistry has got a crucial role to play in it. After the Nobel Prize declaration, Carolyn R Bertozzi told that- “The field of click chemistry is still in its early phases and many new reactions are yet to be discovered and one such discovery is in drug delivery where chemistry can be done inside living patients to ensure that the drug is going to the correct place and not the wrong place.”

Applications of click chemistry:

  • It can be used in the treatment of cancer and many other diseases
  • It can be used in materials science
  • It can be used to target quadruplex nucleic acids
  • It can be used in nanoparticle modification and its targeted delivery
  • It can be used in several biotechnological and biomedical applications
  • It can be used for synthetic applications in thermosetting block and graft polymers

Other Awards and Achievements:

Carolyn R Bertozzi and K Barry Sharpless have also won some other fabulous awards too. Let’s have a look at those achievements other than the phenomenal Nobel Prize award.

Carolyn R Bertozzi:

  • MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1999)
  • ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (2001)
  • Lemelson-MIT Prize (2010)
  • Heinrich Wieland Prize (2012)
  • Wolf Prize (2022
  • Welch Award in Chemistry (2022)

K Barry Sharpless:

  • Chemical Pioneer Award (1988)
  • Scheele Award (1991)
  • Arthur. C Cope Award (1992)
  • Tetrahedron Prize (1993)
  • King Faisal International Prize (1995)
  • Harvey Prize (1998)
  • Chirality Medal (2000)
  • Benjamin Franklin Medal (2001)
  • Wolf Prize (2001)
  • William H. Nichols Medal (2006)
  • Priestly Medal (2019)

Check your knowledge

Answer. Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K Barry Sharpless

Answer. Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K Barry Sharpless have been jointly awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize Award in Chemistry for their work in click chemistry.

Answer. Earlier, K Barry Sharpless won the Nobel Prize in 2001 in Chemistry for his work on chirally catalysed oxidation reactions.

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