Davide Castelvecchi and Heidi Ledford in Nature:
Three chemists who pioneered a useful technique called click chemistry to join molecules together efficiently have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Barry Sharpless at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, and Morten Meldal at the University of Copenhagen laid the foundation for click chemistry, and both independently discovered a pivotal reaction that could link two molecules — an azide and an alkyne — with relative ease1,2,3. This reaction has been used to develop a host of molecules, including plastics and potential pharmaceuticals.
The third winner, Carolyn Bertozzi at Stanford University in California, used click chemistry to map the complex sugar-based polymers called glycans on the surface of living cells without disturbing cell function4. To do this, she developed processes called bioorthogonal reactions, which are now being used to aid the development of cancer drugs.