The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists for their work in developing a way of “snapping molecules together”.
Carolyn Bertozzi of Stanford University, California, Morten Meldal of the University of Copenhagen, and K Barry Sharpless of Scripps Research, California, were cited "for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry".
Hans Ellegren, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said the prize had been awarded in equal parts to the three during the ceremony at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden on Wednesday.
Their work has led to a revolution in how chemists think about linking molecules together and how to do it in living cells, the prize committee said.
Click chemistry involves “snapping molecules together” to make cancer drugs, map DNA and create materials that are tailored to a specific purpose.
Johan Aqvist, the chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said that this year’s prize dealt with “not overcomplicating matters, instead working with what is easy and simple”.
“Functional molecules can be built even by taking a straightforward route,” he said.
Prof Bertozzi is the eighth woman to be awarded the prize, while Prof Sharpless is the fifth scientist to receive two Nobel prizes, according to the committee.
Prof Sharpless, who won his first Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2001 "started the ball rolling" and "coined the concept of click chemistry" about 2000, the jury said.
"Shortly afterwards, Morten Meldal and Barry Sharpless ― independently of each other ― presented what is now the crown jewel of click chemistry: the copper catalysed azide-alkyne cycloaddition," the jury said.
Prof Bertozzi then took it to "a new level”, the jury said.
"She developed click reactions that work inside living organisms. Her bioorthogonal reactions take place without disrupting the normal chemistry of the cell," it said.
"I'm absolutely stunned, I'm sitting here and I can hardly breathe," said Prof Bertozzi, minutes after the announcement.
Last year, the prize was awarded to Benjamin List and David MacMillan for finding an environmentally cleaner way to build molecules, which the Nobel panel said is “already benefiting humankind greatly”.
A week of Nobel prize announcements began on Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the award in medicine for unlocking secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided insights into the human immune system.
Three scientists jointly won the prize in physics on Tuesday for their work in quantum mechanics.
Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger were cited for discovering the way particles, known as photons, can be linked, or “entangled”, sharing information with each other, even when they are separated by large distances.
The awards continue with literature on Thursday.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, followed by the economics award on Monday.
The prizes carry a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $912,000). The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.