The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K. Barry Sharpless for their work developing click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry. Click chemistry creates fast and straightforward reactions where molecules snap together quickly, CNN reports. This method of building molecules can have a number of real-world applications, especially in the development of pharmaceuticals.
Sharpless, a chemistry professor at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, originally coined the concept of click chemistry. Shortly after, both he and Meldal, based at the University of Copenhagen, discovered the key reaction of click chemistry independently, The New York Times reports. Bertozzi, a professor at Stanford University, was then able to apply the concept to biomolecules on cells' surfaces without disrupting their chemistry. Her work later allowed for click reactions to take place within cells, leading to the creation of bio-orthogonal reactions.
The three winners' work is being studied further for its potential to treat cancer. Bertozzi remarked that bio-orthogonal reactions allow scientists to "[do] chemistry inside human patients to make the drugs go to the right place." This system could be used to send toxic compounds to cancer cells, an area of research that is currently in development.
Sharpless became the fifth person ever to win two Nobels, the first of which he won in 2001, CNN continues. Bertozzi also became the eighth woman to win the award.
"[C]lick chemistry and bio-orthogonal reactions have taken chemistry into the era of functionalism," the Nobel Committee said, "this is bringing the greatest benefit to humankind."