Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 celebration

Oct 6, 2021
video source: University of Warsaw

The Centre for Cooperation and Dialogue of the University of Warsaw organized the annual Nobel Week celebrations. Maria Górna was among the experts from the Department of Chemistry invited to comment on the live transmission of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry award ceremony.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 was awarded jointly to Benjamin List and David W. C. MacMillan for their work in “the development of asymmetric organocatalysis,” a method that uses small organic molecules as catalysts instead of enzymes or metals.

Maria commented: "All* the processes taking place in our body are based on the action of proteins, which perform work similar to the work of the molecules for which the Nobel Prize was awarded, i.e. they catalyze chemical reactions. However, proteins cannot always perform this function because they "like" the water environment and many organic compounds are not very soluble in it and organic solvents are needed. We also do not always know a protein that can catalyze a given chemical reaction. Consequently, other molecules and methods are needed."

"At both ends of this discovery, I see a connection to the living world. The synthesis of compounds with a certain chirality is very important for the pharmaceutical industry. The second aspect is the enzymes that catalyze this type of chemical reaction in our body. They are huge particles with thousands of atoms. The laureates discovered an easier way to mimic nature", points out Maria.

Science in Poland (PAP Nauka), Polska Times, and other media outlets covered this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry, highlighting Maria's commentary.

*this is a generalization, since nucleic acids can also catalyse reactions

Image source: Centre for Cooperation and Dialogue, UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW, Mirek Kaźmierczak, Krystian Szczęsny