Scripps Research professor K. Barry Sharpless receives 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

K. Barry Sharpless

Sharpless is awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry. This is his second Nobel in Chemistry, making him one of only two scientists to ever receive such an honor.

Scripps Research professor K. Barry Sharpless, PhD, has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his groundbreaking research in developing “click chemistry,” an ingenious method for building molecules.

Sharpless, the W.M. Keck Professor of Chemistry, shares the prize with Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, of Stanford University and Morten Meldal, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry, according to the Nobel Prize committee.

Sharpless previously shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on chirally catalyzed oxidation reactions, making him the second scientist ever to win two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry. Frederick Sanger won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1958 and 1980.

“Barry Sharpless has had a tremendous impact on chemistry, first with his development of asymmetric synthesis and now with his elegant ‘click chemistry,’” says Peter Schultz, PhD, President and CEO of Scripps Research. “His work opened whole new scientific frontiers that have had a major impact on the fields of chemistry, biology and medicine. Barry has a remarkable combination of chemical insight, uncanny intuition and real-world practicality—he is a chemist’s chemist and a wonderful colleague.”

“Click chemistry”—a term Sharpless coined—is a set of methods for constructing chemical compounds via irreversible, highly efficient reactions between smaller molecules. The “click” refers to the LEGO™-like ease of fitting these modular elements together. This platform has transformed how scientists approach drug discovery, bioimaging and even more.

“This year’s Prize in Chemistry deals with not overcomplicating matters, instead working with what is easy and simple. Functional molecules can be built even by taking a straightforward route,” stated Johan Åqvist, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

Sharpless first studied chemistry at Dartmouth College, later going on to receive his PhD in Chemistry from Stanford University. Before joining Scripps Research, he was a professor in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford.

Sharpless has received countless awards and honors for his foundational work in the field, including—most recently—the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Sir Derek Barton Gold Medal. Today, the Sharpless lab pursues useful new reactivity and general methods for selectively controlling chemical reactions. 

Press Release - Scripps Research professor K. Barry Sharpless receives 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (pdf) 

K. Barry Sharpless, PhD, is the W. M. Keck Professor of Chemistry at Scripps Research. He is one of only two scientists to have been awarded two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry. He received the 2001 Nobel Prize for his work in chirally catalyzed oxidation reactions and his second Nobel in 2022 for the development of click chemistry, a term he coined.

Sharpless was born in Philadelphia in 1941 and credits his summers on the New Jersey shore for igniting his scientific curiosity as well as his love of fishing. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at Dartmouth College and his doctoral degree in Organic Chemistry at Stanford University. He completed postdoctoral studies at both Stanford and Harvard University.

In 1970, he joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an assistant professor. He set up his own lab and began studying chirality, or handedness, meaning that an object, such as a molecule, cannot be superimposed on its mirror image. Chemical reactions in a lab produce both right- and left-handed forms of a molecule but relying on the “wrong” form can make synthetic medicines dangerous. Sharpless’ work in chirality led to his 2001 Nobel Prize, shared with William S. Knowles, PhD, and Ryoji Noyori, DEng. In its press release, the Nobel committee said the scientists “have opened up a completely new field of research in which it is possible to synthesize molecules and material with new properties.”

He joined Stanford University as a professor of chemistry in 1977, then returned to MIT in 1980, where he spent the next decade pursuing his studies. In 1990, he joined the faculty at Scripps Research.

Sharpless and his colleagues first fully described click chemistry in 2001. This technique allows chemists to take smaller modular chemicals and snap them together like LEGO™ bricks to make larger, more complex molecules of interest with superior properties. Click chemistry’s experimental simplicity and dependable performance under virtually any condition enables scientists to develop improved medicines at lower costs. Additionally, scientists can harness click chemistry to develop new diagnostics and bioimaging tools and to create “smart” materials.

In 2022, Sharpless shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Carolyn R. Bertozzi, PhD, of Stanford University and Morten Meldal, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen for the development of click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry. According to the Nobel Prize Committee, “Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry—click chemistry—in which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently.”

In addition to his two Nobel Prizes, Sharpless has won numerous prestigious awards. Among them are the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the Priestley Medal (the highest honor from the American Chemical Society) and the Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry. In June 2022, Sharpless was awarded the Sir Derek Barton Gold Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Barton shared the 1969 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and was a lifelong mentor of Sharpless until his death in 1998.

Learn more about Sharpless’ life and work:
Scripps Research Magazine: Click chemistry
Chemical & Engineering News: 2019 Priestley Medalist K. Barry Sharpless works magic in the world of molecules
Royal Society of Chemistry: Winner: 2022 Sir Derek Barton Gold Medal

Scripps Research Announces K. Barry Sharpless, PhD, Nobel Prize

Released October 5, 2022

Announcement of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Source: The Nobel Prize / Released October 5, 2022

 

Press Conference with K. Barry Sharpless, PhD

Recorded October 5, 2022


Press release: The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences | October 5, 2022

 

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