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Sharpless Wins Wolf Prize

La Jolla, CA. January 16, 2001 -- K. Barry Sharpless, Ph.D., W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has won the 2001 Wolf Prize in Chemistry. Sharpless, who has been with TSRI since 1990, is cited by the Wolf Prize jury for his "pioneering, creative, and crucial work in developing asymmetric catalysis for the synthesis of chiral molecules, greatly increasing mankind's ability to create new products of fundamental and practical importance."

Chirality, or handedness, is the structural characteristic of a molecule that makes it impossible to superimpose it on its mirror image. Proteins, DNA, and carbohydrates are all chiral molecules: without the correct handedness, they will not function as the basic molecules of life. Many drugs must also be of correct chirality; indeed, in some cases, the wrong handedness can be toxic.

In 1980, Sharpless reported a breakthrough in synthesizing chiral molecules. His method-the highly enantioselective epoxidation of allylic alcohols catalyzed by a titanium complex-is of broad scope and is now used routinely. More recently, Sharpless developed another useful method-the asymmetric dihydroxylation of alkenes catalyzed by an osmium complex.

Sharpless shares the Wolf Prize with Professor Henri B. Kagan, University of Paris-South, France, and Professor Ryoji Noyori, Nagoya University, Japan, who worked independently in the same field.

Sharpless received his B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1963 and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1968. In 1970, following postdoctoral studies at Stanford and Harvard Universities, he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After three years at Stanford in the late 1970s, he returned to MIT as Arthur C. Cope Professor of Chemistry. He joined TSRI's faculty in 1991. Sharpless was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1985. Other significant honors include the Tetrahedron Prize, the American Chemical Society's Award for Creative Work in Organic Synthesis and the Arthur C. Cope Award; the Prelog Medal (Switzerland); the Janssen Prize (Belgium); the Scheele Medal (Sweden); the King Faisal International Prize for Science (Saudi Arabia); the Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society; the Harvey Prize of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; and he was listed among the "Top 75 Contributors to the Chemical Enterprise," in the 75 years since the founding of Chemical & Engineering News.

The Israel-based Wolf Foundation, established by the late German-born inventor, diplomat, and philanthropist Ricardo Wolf, gives annual awards to outstanding scientists and artists. Previous recipients of the prize include TSRI's President Richard Lerner and Professor Peter Schultz. This year's awards will be presented by the president of the Israel at a special ceremony in May.

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