The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been jointly awarded to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis. Speaking on the occasion, Johan Åqvist, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry said, “This concept for catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we didn’t think of it earlier.” Several industries, as well as research areas, are dependent on chemists’ ability to construct molecules to form elastic and durable materials, store energy in batteries or inhibit the progression of diseases. Catalysts are essential for their progression as they control and accelerate chemical reactions, without being a part of the final product. Human bodies also contain thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes that chisel out the molecules essential for life.
The researchers for long believed that there were only two types of catalysts– metals and enzymes, but in 2000, Benjamin List and David MacMillan, independent of each other, developed a third type– asymmetric organocatalysis. This impacted pharmaceutical research positively, thereby making Chemistry greener.