By David Keyton, Frank Jordans and Christina Larson The Associated Press
STOCKHOLM » Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for finding an ingenious and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules — an approach now used to make a variety of compounds, including medicines and pesticides.
The work of Benjamin List and David W.C. Mac-Millan has allowed scientists to produce those molecules more cheaply, efficiently, safely and with significantly less hazardous waste.
“It’s already benefiting humankind greatly,” said Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, a member of the Nobel panel.
It was the second day in a row that a Nobel rewarded work that had environmental implications. The physics prize honored developments that expanded our understanding of climate change, just weeks before the start of global climate negotiations in Scotland.
The chemistry prize focused on the making of molecules. That requires linking atoms in specific arrangements, an often difficult and slow task. Until the beginning of the millennium, chemists had only two methods — or catalysts — to speed up the process, using either complicated enzymes or metal catalysts.
That all changed when List, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and MacMillan, of Princeton University in New Jersey, independently reported that small organic molecules can be used to do the job.
The new tools have been important for developing medicines and minimizing drug manufacturing glitches, including problems that can cause harmful side effects.
List and David W.C. MacMillan were awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for chemistry for finding an environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make compounds, including medicines and pesticides.
John Minchillo, The Associated Press