Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Richard Schrock, Robert Grubbs and Yves Chauvin have won this year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering new ways and catalysts to make novel organic materials, including drugs. This prize was a giveaway. My professor had talked about it two years ago and had said that these chemists are expected to win the prize any year now. Grubbs and Schrock winning the Nobel has been the talk of the town for many years because of the significance of their research. The reaction that they investigated, called metathesis, and the catalysts they perfected, are part of textbook folklore. They are some of the most important reactions and catalysts used in both academic laboratories and industries around the world for making organic compounds. I read about them a couple of years back, and my professor talked about them in class two years ago; more than once I read about them and heard about them in class and in seminars, and more than once the descriptions and mechanisms of the reactions and catalysts have popped up as questions in exams. The ubiquity of these reactions in most of the organic chemistry textbooks I have seen is testament to their importance.
From the Supporting Information from the Nobel Prize site:

"Considering the relatively short time Schrock’s and Grubbs’ catalysts have been available it is remarkable to note the breadth of applications they have found. These include the synthesis of insect pheromones, herbicides, additives for polymers and fuels, polymers with special properties and various substances of interest in pharmaceuticals development. The development of molecules that attack various bodily illnesses merits further mention, since researchers
are now devoting themselves to the creation of pharmaceuticals candidates for treating such widely differing conditions as bacterial infections, hepatitis C, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome, osteoporosis, arthritis, inflammation, fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, migraine, etc. Metathesis is thus an important weapon in the hunt for new pharmaceuticals for treating
many of the world’s major diseases."

Incidentally, Robert Grubbs is long since scheduled to come as a speaker to Emory University in May. He will be hosted by one of the members of my PhD. committee, who was a postdoctoral student with him at Caltech. Yesterday, I mentioned to my friend that it would be great if he wins the Nobel (after all it was if anything, overdue) and he did. His visit in May is going to be fun! We just hope that this recent development does not necessitate any change in his plans!


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