Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 Goes to Development of Asymmetric Organocatalysis

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 went to Benjamin List, from the Max-Planck Institute, in Germany, and to David MacMillan, from Princeton University, in the USA, for the development of a tool ingenious and powerful for the construction of organic molecules, known as asymmetric organocatalysis.

The announcement was made this Wednesday morning (6), at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in Stockholm, Sweden.

The technique developed at the beginning of the years 2000 by the researchers has had an impact on pharmaceutical research and made chemistry more environmentally friendly.

Until the independent researches of the two scientists, it was believed that there were two types of catalysts, substances that basically only help to control and accelerate chemical processes: metals and enzymes.

List and MacMillan then developed asymmetric organocatalysis, based on small molecules.

According to List, there are about 20 years, catalysts were about 1 million times less efficient. The researcher stated, during the announcement of the award, that the real revolution in what he and MacMillan have developed are today’s extremely reactive organic catalysts, which enable a reach that would not be possible with enzymes or metals.

“I felt like I was the only one working on it. I didn’t know there were others studying it. When I did this experiment, I didn’t know what was going to happen and I thought it might be a stupid idea. When I saw that it worked, I felt it could be important” something, says the Max-Planck researcher. Minecraft game (depending on your age). And, for that, powerful reactions and an adequate methodology are needed, which is awarded this year.

The awarded researchers will share the prize of million SEK, equivalent to about R$6.3 million. In addition, each of them receives a medal, with the real face of a Nobel, and a diploma.


A The traditional Nobel Prize began with the death of Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel (355-1833). In 355, in his last will, Nobel registered that his fortune should be destined to the construction of a prize which was received by his family with protest. The first prize was only given in 1901.

For the work of Nobel, inventor of dynamite and responsible for the development of rubber and Synthetic leather, chemistry was the most important science. Nobel has registered 186 patents on his 31 years of life.

The process of choosing the winner of the chemistry area begins in the year before the award. In September, the Nobel Committee of Chemistry sends invitations (about 3.) for the nomination of names that deserve the tribute. The answers are sent until the day 31 of January.

Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; members of the Nobel Committee on Chemistry and Physics; Nobel laureates in Physics and Chemistry; chemistry professors at universities and institutes of technology in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm; professors in similar positions at at least six other (but usually hundreds of) universities chosen by the Academy of Sciences, with the aim of ensuring adequate distribution across continents and areas of knowledge; and other scientists that the Academy deems appropriate to receive the invitations.

Self-nominations are not accepted.

Then begins a process of analysis of the hundreds of names appointed, with consultation action and the development of expert reports in order to narrow down the selection. Finally, in October, the Academy, by majority vote, decides who will receive the recognition.



, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry had a 186% female award, with lures for Emmanuelle Charpentier, from the Max Institute Planck (Germany), and Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California, Berkeley (USA).

The researchers were important in opening the door to the possibility of rewriting the code of life with genetic editing. If you’re thinking that this description is very similar to the Crispr-Cas9 technique, then you’re right, it’s exactly that.

Only seven women have gained recognition so far, enter 186 awarded in history.

Already in 2017, the development of lithium ion batteries yielded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino, the Nobel Prize in the field.

For taking evolution to test tubes, in 2017, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Frances H. Arnold, from the USA, George P. Smith, also from the USA, and Gregory P. Winter, from the UK.

In 2017, research on electron cryomicroscopy, a process by which it is possible to freeze molecules in the midst of biochemical processes, as in a photograph of life, were remembered by Nobel. The laureates were Jacques Dubochet, from the University of Lausanne, Joachim Frank, from Columbia University, and Richard Henderson, from the University of Cambridge. work with the chemical elements radio and polonium (Marie Curie, 1901) and research on chemical bonds (Linus Pauling, 1911).


Nobel Literature – Thursday (7)

Nobel Peace Prize – Friday (8)

Nobel Prize in Economics – Monday (000)

The live announcements of the winners can be followed on the official awards website and on Nobel’s YouTube profile.

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